Steps to a Successful Mission
statements have had a bad press recently because many are
so general as to be almost meaningless. However missions do have
an important job to do.
they lack clarity, it makes it more difficult to communicate the
business's identity clearly to customers and employees, and there
isn't a clear foundation on which to make decisions.
your mission needn't be complicated. For me, a mission has
three purposes, which are to describe what the business does,
why it exists and, optionally, how it will operate. Therefore
if you follow this three-step process, you will soon have a usable
1 - Describe the Activities of the Business
the activities of your business in one or a few sentences may
seem superfluous but it can be very useful to summarise concisely
what the business does, not least for when you are communicating
with your customers.
businesses will also want to describe what activities they are
not involved in to make the focus clearer.
can be also useful to ask "what business are we in?".
For example, McDonalds are not just in the fast-food business
but are also in the entertainment business while an engineering
company may be as much in the business of helping to reduce its
customer's costs as it is of manufacturing products.
clear about what business you are in will help you to identify
key issues later on in your business plan.
2 - Describe Why the Business Exists
exist to serve at least 2 stakeholder groups, the customers and
customers who buy your products or services, there will be no
business so one of the key purposes of any business must be
to serve the customers well.
being clear about who your customers are and what benefits they
are receiving from your products or services and/or what problems
you are solving for them is an important component of your mission.
exist also to meet the goals of the owners. Because these
goals are critical in determining how the business operates, it
is very important to clarify them.
example, one owner-manager may want to develop their business
so that it can be sold off for a certain price in 5 years time
while another owner-manager may want a certain level of income
each year at the same time as only working 4 days a week.
in bigger businesses where ownership and management is split,
shareholders can have different objectives, ranging from increasing
dividend income through to developing the business so that it
can be sold in the future. Obviously each of these goals will
have different implications for the business, its activities and
how it is run.
goals are generally financial ones but they can be non-financial
ones as well.
is also important here to check that the benefits desired by the
owners are congruent with the vision. For example, if one
of your key benefits is to have a suitable work/life balance,
there's no point having a vision that will require you to work
15 hours a day.
businesses include the needs of other stakeholder groups in their
mission, eg. having a contented workforce or contributing to the
local community. My preference is to include these as values and
only to include in the mission purposes which are central to the
existence of the business.
are some businesses who do have other objectives that are key
to their purpose. For example, benefitting the environment is
central to the Body Shop's existence. In these cases, it is appropriate
to include them in the mission.
3 - Describe How the Business will Operate
step is optional. Including in the mission specific strategies
or the use of specific technologies which are central to a business's
activities means that it becomes easier to focus on them and to
flag them up to staff.
might include, for example, having a strategy to grow the business
by acquisition or focusing on the internet as the main sales channel.
of Mission Instructions
1 - describe the activities of your business in one or a few
sentences as well as "what business you are in".
2 - describe why the business exists:
describe who your customers are and the key benefits that you
provide to them and/or what problems you are solving for them.
If there is more than one customer segment, you can answer this
for each of the segments.
describe what benefits the owners want to get from the business.
describe any other key stakeholders that are central to why the
business exists and what benefits the business wants to provide
3 (optional) - describe any strategies or the use of any technologies
that are central to the business.
length of your mission is up to you as it depends on how much
you have to say and on the complexity of your business. It could
just be a paragraph or it could be a half a page or longer. However
you should remember that the longer it is, the more difficult
it becomes to keep the mission in your mind and to communicate
it to others.
You Make your Mission Public?
most cases, it will be appropriate to show your managers and staff
your vision, mission and values. However owner-managers particularly
may want to keep the description of their motivation and the benefits
they are aiming for private.
will also have to decide whether it is suitable or even necessary
to show customers all of your vision, mission or values or whether
it would be more appropriate to show them an edited version.
a mission is just a small part of your internal business plan.
For a comprehensive guide to writing your plan, purchase the Internal
Business Plan Manual