This post is part of a four-part set that details just one possible (and evolving) method to develop a useful mission statement. See part one here, part two here, and part three here.
Reminder: Why Do We Need A Mission Statement?
There’s no rule on what a mission statement needs to look like, but I think it’s important that it include who you are helping, what problem they have, and how you solve it.
Despite the impression you might get from reading others’ mission statements, the mission statement isn’t a PR piece or something for customers or the world in general to read and admire you for. It’s not about convincing the rest of the world or declaring your project/company’s identity. The purpose of the mission statement is to help you make internal decisions.
The format of the mission statement I like to use is:
We/I help (beneficiary) do (purpose) by providing (tools).
Here’s the final words from the early steps:
- Beneficiary: experience-seeking adults
- Purpose: Joy and Human Connection
- Tools: Charming Absurdity
Dropping these words into the format, we get this:
The Eureka Room helps experience-seeking adults feel joy and human connection through charming absurdity.
You want to stay true to your discoveries in the graphs, but you can still play a little with phrasing to get to a mission that:
- Gets you excited when you read it. (Don’t worry if it seems grandiose. Remember, this isn’t for the outside world. It is for you and your team.)
- Rings true to what you want to do.
- Doesn’t give you a feeling of things you “should” do. (If your mission statement feels like a required and possibly dreaded obligation to identify you as a good person/team or something similar, you might want to revisit what you are doing from the start. Because you’ll never muster what it takes to complete the mission if you are fueling it through guilt while slowly building resentment as you move forward.
“I Already Knew My Mission”
When you form the statement, it might seem so obvious that you wonder why you bothered to do this whole exercise. Don’t worry, if you got it right or close to right then you will be glad you wrote it out. What seems “obvious” now won’t seem so obvious all the time and you’ll need this written reminder.
There will be a thousand temptations along the journey to move away from mission. When you are tempted you will turn to the mission and see the right way to go.
Test, Test, Test. Then, Lock It Down.
It will take some experimenting and testing with the outside world to see if the mission you wrote is really your mission. You’ll get valuable feedback and should revisit all the steps to make sure you really have discovered your project’s or organization’s mission.
At some point you will settle on a mission, or at least settle on some of the parts. For me, the words “charming absurdity” are settled. The beneficiaries are still in flux. (At first, I thought it was “all ages”. Then I hosted some young kids and some moody teenagers. It’s grownups only now.) I’m working hard to get it all concrete.
The sooner you can get the mission statement specific and locked down, the faster you can accomplish the mission and more good you can do in the world. Don’t rush it, though. Because you won’t be changing it lightly. Or ever.
Do Not Change The Mission
Once you settle on a mission you want to guard it against all impulses, pleading, and begging to change it for the ever-manifesting and always dangerous Shiny New Things. These points of Shiny New Thing temptation are exactly the moments for which you created your mission in the first place. Stay on mission.
Read that last paragraph again.
If you absolutely must change the mission, I’d recommend throwing the whole thing out and starting over. If you resist that idea and think “oh we just need to change it a little to adjust for this new opportunity”, you are probably being tempted by a Shiny New Thing. If you are going to change the mission, redoing it from the beginning is only a drop in the bucket of the work ahead. If you aren’t even willing to do that work, you need to do some soul searching.