Anyone can say that they’re an ethical, visionary, progressive, blah blah blah company. The problem here, of course, was that Enron was the exact opposite: a predatory corporation feasting on the misfortune of everyone they did business with.
But the problems with mission statements go beyond the typical discord between words and actions. Let’s face it: most mission statements are awful. They’re so bad that there’s a website that randomly generates mission statements. The nonsense the site creates could easily be plugged into any company.
How did we get to this point? Here are some of the most common problems — and how to solve them.
In everyday conversation, do you ever use words like “synergy” or “monetize” or “paradigm”? If you don’t, why would you use them in your mission statement? Don’t obscure your company’s purpose by using language that will have people running for the dictionary. Make it easy because our research found that only 24% of employees know their company’s vision, mission, and values.
This is the time to succinctly express what your company is all about. Look at it as an opportunity to tell people what you do and why you do it.
Here’s Disney’s exceptionally clear mission statement: “We create happiness by providing the finest in entertainment — for people of all ages, everywhere.”
That gets straight to the point, illuminates exactly what the company does, and neatly illustrates the company’s values.
Who would ever buy something from a company that claims its mission is “to globally leverage others’ economically sound infrastructures in order to endeavor to professionally operationalize e-tailers deliverables for the highest standards”?
Bet you didn’t even read that whole thing. (It’s from the random mission statement generator.) By having a mission statement like this, you drive away readers.
Remember that these readers are potential customers. These people are busy and bombarded by sales pitches. They don’t need to know all the details and technicalities of what you do. They want a sense of who you are and what you offer.
If your mission statement could be for any company in the world, then why do you even have one? One of the biggest issues with poorly written mission statements is that they all sound the same.
Your mission statement should be specific to your values and history. It should tell people exactly how you set yourself apart from everyone else in the market. In short, it should be the best advertisement for your company.
Crafting a clear, concise, unique mission statement is the easy part. The difficult part is living up to your mission statement, ensuring that your company’s actions match its words.