Mission statements are a lot like press releases. If the critical information isn’t expressed well in the first few lines, it can be overlooked by the editor who receives it, and your story won’t get covered.
Similarly, if a potential client is researching your firm and comes across a cryptic, poorly written mission statement, chances are you won’t land the contract. Try following this mission statement: “We will credibly network parallel data while continuing to continually develop reliable products to delight the customer.” Can you guess what this company does? Me neither.
There’s a lot at stake for the IT consulting firm that’s new to the market, changing focus, or just wants to better communicate its service offerings and business goals to the world. Here’s some handy advice on constructing a clear, concise mission statement that will speak volumes not only to potential clients but to current employees as well.
Why have a mission statement?
A successful mission statement, in essence, is a call-to-action for employees. If done well, it creates awareness, interest, buy-in, and loyalty on the part of employees. In addition, it defines exactly what your company has to offer to potential clients or customers.
An effective mission statement does the following:
- Keeps the company on track and focused, both internally and externally, in a sometimes volatile business climate.
- Acts as a marketing tool. It establishes a common purpose to tell your employees and customers or clients why you exist, where they fit into the equation, and where the company is going.
- Gives everyone in your company a clear position to use when working with customers/clients and promoting your services.
- Works as a motivational tool that encourages employees and company leaders to work toward a shared vision.
Set your firm apart
When writing a mission statement, keep it short and make it memorable, creative, and unique. It should demonstrate how your organization differs from others. Some of the most effective mission statements use only a few words.
McDonald’s, for example, uses “quality, consistency, cleanliness, service.” That’s pretty easy for anyone to understand. And that little shop in Redmond, WA, uses this: “Microsoft's vision is to empower people through great software—any time, any place, and on any device.” On the consulting front, KPMG calls itself “the global network of professional advisory firms whose aim it is to turn knowledge into value for the benefit of its clients, its people, and communities.” And Razorfish’s vision is to be “engineers of opportunity.”
Drafting your mission statement
According to F. John Reh, a management expert who writes for About.com, here’s how to draft a mission statement:
- List the organization’s core competencies, unique strengths, and weaknesses.
- List the organization’s primary customers—internal or external—by type, not name.
- Review how each customer relates to each of the organization’s strengths. Ask them, if possible.
- Write a one-sentence description of each customer/strength pairing. Combine any that are essentially the same.
- List the sentences in order of importance to the organization’s vision, if one exists.
- Combine the top three to five sentences in a paragraph.
- Ask your customers if they would want to do business with an organization with that mission.
- Ask your employees if they understand and support it and can act on it.
- Ask your suppliers if it makes sense to them.
- Incorporate the feedback from customers, employees, and suppliers. Repeat the process.
When you have refined the paragraph into a statement that clearly articulates the way the company wants to relate to those it effects, publish it to everyone. Post it on your Web site, publicize it to the media, and communicate it via a letter or e-mail it to your clients.
Refining your mission statement
Your mission statement must also address future goals. At McDonald’s, that’s pretty easy and constant. Your business is probably a little more complex. To accomplish this, make sure your mission statement is practical, workable, and in-tune with prospective client or customer needs. WalMart’s mission statement is a good example of a workable one that is also very practical and will stand the test of time. It simply states, “To provide a range of products that deliver value to Middle America.” WalMart’s success illustrates the most important point of a mission statement: In order for it to be successful, everyone must live it every day. You must practice what you preach if you want to gain credibility with your employees, clients, and vendors.
Got a great mission statement? Share it with us, and we’ll award the best with a TechRepublic T-shirt. You can post it below or send it to us in an e-mail.