Designing your Mission:Simplifying the Rational, Emotional and Radical.
This past weekend I was reading an article in Fast Company that reminded me of a speaking engagement I had a few years ago.
I was asked to discuss corporate website basics–what websites need and where most go astray. If I remember correctly, the first words out of my mouth were, “Take your mission statement off of your homepage, because nobody cares.” I think I had their attention.
I went on to explain how so many corporate websites showcase their bland, forgettable mission statement prominently on their homepage. A website isn’t helping anyone by telling the world “our team empowers life-long learners to achieve the utmost quality and customer satisfaction in every…” Zzzz… Does that sound like an excerpt from your corporate mission?
I have talked about the importance of niche positioning and how a mission statement often reflects poor positioning. Which should come first, the mission or the positioning? I’ll be the first to admit it’s a bit of a chicken/egg thing. We prefer to begin by developing a strong positioning and let the mission statement flow from that language. But to be fair, today we’ll look at the mission statement as a starting point.
Ideally your mission statement should be the guiding light that directs the course of your business. If your mission is a little lackluster today, let’s look at four ways to reconsider where you’re going.
1. The Rational:
What do you do? What is your product or service, and who do you do it for? What is your market? How far is your reach? What are actions that your company uses to describe its services? This step should be pretty straight-forward. Once you’ve wrapped up, move on to step two.
2. The Emotional:
How does your organization make the world a better place? Who does your company benefit? Who would miss you if your organization disappeared? Why should anyone care? Make a list of some of the most emotionally charged benefits of your company. If the world reaped the utmost from your benefits, what would that look like? Once you’ve given this ample consideration, move on to step three. Still scratching your head? If you’re stuck on this one, consider enlisting some professional support.
3. The Radical:
What is the one thing that you do better than anyone else? Are you the best at it in your market or region? Can you claim “only-ness?” Complete this sentence: We are the only (blank) in (blank) that does (blank). When you fill in the blanks, what do you get? If it sounds the same as your competition, you may need to dig deeper. Give this plenty of thought before moving on to step four.
Taking what may be several pages of notes from the above exercises, begin simplifying the message into statements. If you’re really focused, you may be able to distill it down to a few succinct words. One of our clients has their corporate mission statement polished down to two words. “Inspire Hope.” Here’s a hint: Corporate senior leaders need to own this. Hiring a professional to help word-smith your mission statement is wise, but this is not a task meant for a committee. That’s important. No mission statement committees. Got it?
So how do you know when it’s right? It should be clear, concise and inspirational. A two-word mission isn’t the right fit for everyone, but if your mission is unclear, ambiguous or wordy, keep working. Are you inspired yet to get started? It’s your business. Make it your mission.