Does your company or the company you work for have a great mission statement? Do you know what it is? Does everyone you work with know it and understand what their role is in achieving that mission?
When I think back to previous companies I’ve worked for I can’t remember any mission statements - so I googled them and one in particular listed cliches like ‘Customer focus, innovation, commitment and sustainability’. While the words themselves might have some deeper meaning, seeing them listed on the “About Us” page of a website isn’t very inspiring at all.
A mission statement should be a call to action. Donald Miller, author of Business Made Simple suggests that if you can’t imagine William Wallace from Braveheart shouting your mission statement from horseback to inspire a group of soldiers to sacrifice themselves then it can’t be much of a mission statement.
The primary purpose of a mission statement is to outline the mission. Why are we all here today doing what we are doing. When a mission statement is clear and inspirational it has the power to unite your team and create a positive culture of comradery with everyone working to achieve the same goal.
When I think back to working for large publishing houses at the start of my career, I don’t remember there being any rallying around the company mission - as far I as know there wasn’t one. People came to work, did their job and then went home. Mission statements are so often created on some executive retreat, away from most of the employees, they return with a meaningless statement that might appear on an annual report if they’re lucky.
Most mission statements sound as if they are written by lawyers for shareholders. Disney's mission statements is:
“To be one of the world’s leading producers and providers of entertainment and information, using its portfolio of brands to differentiate its content, services and consumer products.”
If you asked me, “to delight children all over the world” would’ve been better.
People are attracted to a good mission. The Disney mission statement is full of business jargon, it's long and it isn’t memorable. If you want people to invest in your mission you have to make it a good one.
“A good mission statement is short, interesting and inspirational.” ~ Donal Miller
I would also add memorable to the list. There is no point having a mission statement that people can’t remember. Short, snappy and sweet. One of my favourite tests for a good mission statement is ‘“Would it look good on a t-shirt?”
There are lots of different ways to come up with a mission statement but here is Donald Miller’s formula to get you started:
We will accomplish ____________ by ___________ because of _____________.
An example he gives is of a plumbing company: We will service ten thousand customers within the next five years because everyone deserves plumbing that works and service that makes them feel valued.
As a customer, I would use this plumbing service (I want to feel valued). As a plumber you have a clear goal of servicing ten thousand customers over the next five years. Donald suggests adding in a deadline so there is a sense of urgency. There is also no reason why your mission statement can’t change every few years.
A good mission statement should explain what you are doing and why that effort matters. This is critical if you want your team to rally around the mission and when your staff do then your customers can too. It has a ripple effect.
There are a few places that do this quite well - I always felt that Uniqlo staff knew something I didn’t. When the store first opened in Melbourne they had a different vibe compared to other large clothing stores. They were always shouting ‘Welcome to Uniqlo’. The Uniqlo mission statement is: Unlocking the Power of Clothing.
Another example is Bunnings, somewhere I spend far too much of my time. But I’ve always been super impressed with the service. All of the staff seem really well educated on most of the products they sell. The Bunnings mission statement: Our ambition is to provide our customers with the widest range of home improvement products in accordance with our lowest prices policy, backed with the best service. Customer service is baked right into their mission.
When working with clients on a new branding project or a rebrand the mission statement comes before anything else. Understanding a company’s mission will affect how I approach the graphic design of their brand. Being able to help companies arrive at a good mission statement makes you more valuable and useful as a designer.
One final thought for you on mission statements is about creating one for yourself. Now it may sound silly but hear me out. This week I’ve had this slight feeling of unease. There are alot of things going on in my life right now, a lot of balls in the air if you will and it makes me feel anxious. This week I also read this quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson:
“The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.”
Now I couldn’t remember the whole quote but ‘the purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful.’ has stuck with me. What if that's my mission statement. To be useful. I’ve been trailing it out for the last couple of days and it has been… useful. If I’m being indecisive about something I just have to ask - is it useful? Yes or no? It has made the second half of this week way less stressful than the first half for sure.