Challenge of the Week: Write a Mission Statement
In a previous Weekly Challenge, I encouraged you to gather all of your institution’s strategic documents. These could be mission and vision statements, strategic goals, master plans, white papers, letters from the board or directors, or anything else that may help you begin to articulate a strategic plan for your department or shop. Refer back to these documents regularly to keep your work aligned with the larger strategic plan you are working under.
What Is a Mission Statement
Do any reading on mission statements and you will soon discover a wide range of definitions, ideas of what should be included or excluded, recommendations on length, and so on. I prefer to keep mission statements as focused as possible. This allows for shorter statements that can be memorized and easily communicated. It also keeps the strategic planning process moving at the beginning, as most people involved in the process can agree on the mission statement. Agreeing on core values, action steps, and other items that follow the mission statement will be much more difficult. Allow the mission statement to provide some traction through this process.
Ebener and Smith in Strategic Planning; An Interactive Process for Leaders suggest the mission statement contain three parts: 1. Business, 2. Purpose, and 3. Values. I prefer this approach as it encourages a focused thought process in working through the mission statement and results in a more focused statement. In this week’s challenge we will only focus on the first two parts; business and purpose. We will explore core values next week.
This whole process can get complicated, it’s good to start with the easy stuff. The business section of your mission statement should be the easiest.
In one or maybe two sentences, answer the question, “What do you do?”. What is your business? What is it you are being asked to do by your institution? These sentences often start with, “By providing…” or something similar.
For example, you may write something like, “Landscaping Services provides planning, planting, and maintenance services to city park annual and perennial beds.”
No need to add embellishments (yet) like, “excellent” or “award winning”, or “creative”. Just say what it is you do.
If the business section answers, “What do you do?”, the purpose section will answer, “Why do you do it?”. To answer this question, think about your customers, both internal and external, and ask yourself what benefit they are receiving from your work.
For most of us, we could go two different directions on this. You could find your purpose in the aesthetic beauty of what you do and the pure enjoyment of the users. If you work in a garden or a park, this may be your focus in your purpose. On the other hand, if you work for a university, hospital, zoo, or other institution your purpose may mention institutional image and marketing. Of course, you can include both.
To build on the example above, we can add purpose to our business statement. An updated mission statement could read, “Landscape Services provides a beautiful and clean retreat within the city for all citizens and visitors by planning, planting, and maintaining city park annual and perennial beds.”
A Few Tips
- Involve your team – If you have a big team, create a focus group to work on the mission statement. It won’t take much of their time and they will be empowered by providing input.
- Involve your superiors – Don’t do this in a vacuum. Let your institution know what you are doing, gain their support, and communicate progress.
- Don’t let this bog you down – This part of the process shouldn’t take a lot of time. If you want a “perfect” statement or have a fear of starting, just get this step done and the rest will follow.
- On the other hand, don’t be flippant – It won’t be perfect, but it should be accurate. If you start off in the wrong direction, the strategic planning process will never be on course.
By next Monday, have a mission statement that includes business and purpose. We will add core values to your statement next week. In the meantime, share your mission statements in the comments below or on The Campus Green Facebook page and use The Campus Green community to help make it better. By sharing, you will help encourage others to make theirs better as well.