5 Keys to ‘Mission Success’

How to Write a Mission Statement

Scott Howe

By: Scot Howe – October 2015

A company’s Mission Statement is meant to drive the business towards a goal. It is meant to underpin its success but can also mark, or be a measure of its failure.Unfortunately, many companies fall into the latter pot, but do so because their mission statement is far from what it should/needs to be.

Successful companies have simple, easily understood visions, and clearly and succinctly articulate these in their mission statements.

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However, I have worked with a number of companies, large and small, and have sometimes scratched my head at their verbose attempts. Usually they are either one large, or two smaller paragraphs that mean very little to their reader. They are seemingly created to display the mental thesaurus of the CEO, rather than actually painting the picture of where the CEO would like to see the company heading and why.

By stark contrast when we were tasked to rid Iraq of the Hussein regime in 2003, we were given a mission statement of one sentence. That one single sentence not only informed every single Commando what was being asked of them, but more importantly ‘why’ and not ‘how’. It also covered the important points: who, what, when , where and why.

Interestingly, now that I have retired from the military I pick up on mission statements that inform the employee ‘how’ to achieve a task, leaving them little or no chance to employ their own initiative, individuality or creativity…the very things they were employed for!

This is what sets mediocre and brilliantly successful organisations apart…directed creativity. The British Commandos are known as the ‘thinking mans Army’ because they are trusted to employ their creativeness in line with the higher commander’s intent. Understanding the intent of the commander two levels above them, all the way through the chain of command makes them highly efficient at goal setting, or writing mission statements. Each man understands the difference between words like ‘Destroy’ and ‘Defeat’:

  1. Destroy – A tactical mission that physically renders an enemy force combat-ineffective until it is reconstituted, or be restored to a usable condition without being entirely rebuilt.
  2. Defeat – A tactical task that occurs when an enemy force has temporarily or permanently lost the physical means or the will to fight. Defeat can result from the use of force or the threat of its use.

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Therefore, the formulation of a mission statement can be a very powerful tool to depict the intention of the company as long as the rest of the people in the organisation are trained to understand the meaning of the words used. It can make a business highly effective and efficient if all staff know how they can assist in the success of the company goals.

Better still, CEOs and business leaders should involve their staff in the creation of the mission. Doing this means they already have ‘buy in’ and engagement from the staff, making it far more likely that the mission is achieved.

So, when formulating your mission statement make sure you follow these simple points:

  •  The words used must be understood by all. Reinforce them through ongoing training.
  • They must state (clearly) the who, what, when, where and why
  • The statement needs only be 1 sentance long
  • They should not be words on a piece of paper. They should always be backed up by actions and behaviours.
  • The staff must be aligned to the mission statement from their very first day on the job. Leaders should ensure staff haven’t simply read it, but that they understand and believe in it too.

Get your Mission Statement right and your business has yet another foundation cornerstone firmly set in place.

About the Author:

Since completing an 18 year career in Britain’s elite Royal Marines Commandos, Scott Howe has firmly established himself as one of Australia’s leading authorities on leadership and business transformation. A highly experienced business strategist who ‘operationalises’ business plans, he has extensive understanding of managing and delivering major transformation programs in both private and public sectors. In additional to these highly successful programs (including the unique ‘Commando Experience‘), Scott is a ‘C Suite’ mentor who appraises, counsels and rationalises ideas to realise business goals.

For more information on the solutions Scott provides and engaging his services, please contact enquiries@rhodesgroup.com.au or call 1300 746 287.

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