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“We provide our products and services with dedication to the highest degree of integrity and quality of customer satisfaction, developing long-term professional relationships with employees who develop pride, creating a stable working environment and a spirit business. “
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Have you ever read a mission statement like this? Probably, and there is a reason. This one is taken from Dunder Mifflin’s call to arms of Office, which would relentlessly saturate the culture of the workplace. And if you’ve ever watched the show, you know the mission statement above didn’t fit the day-to-day reality of working for Dunder Mifflin. And this is not a problem that is confined to television.
Most mission statements are broad, general, and filled with rote language about caring for customers and employees. “Integrity”, “customer satisfaction” and “teamwork” have been touted so many times that anyone who meets them will likely roll their eyes.
But if everyone is doing it wrong, how can you do it right? How can you actually make a mission statement that sums up your business in a compelling and interesting way? Here are some first steps.
Determine your core values
Too many companies build their mission statement around who they want to be, not who they are. If you don’t insist that every job be done on time, don’t make urgency part of your mission statement. If you’re willing to save every now and then if the money is good enough, don’t put integrity into it.
Businesses, like people, have strengths and weaknesses. With their values come tradeoffs, and because of that, they must control everything the company does. They shape the hiring decisions. They create a team culture. And they shape public perception.
Business author Patrick Lencioni has defined several sets of values that a company should look for when developing a mission statement:
- Fundamental values: The principles that guide every action of the company. These are inherent to the business and can never be compromised. They make a business distinctive.
- Desired values: Values that a company does not yet have, but that it wishes to integrate.
- Authorization values to play: Expected principles. “Integrity”, unless the company is outdoing itself in some way or another, is usually a license to play value. The same goes for many of the values mentioned in mission statements.
- Accidental values: Values created by the common interests and personalities of the employees as well as by the corporate culture. These can be good or bad. Sometimes they can close businesses to opportunities.
To really write a mission statement that has maximum impact, try to understand the core values of your business. There is a great, simple question you can ask yourself to do this: “Would I do this even if it harms my business?” If this is a principle that you stick to even though it may be beneficial in the short term to go the other way, it is a core value.
Related: How establishing core values promotes success
Stop trying to please everyone
Here’s a secret about mission statements: they’re not designed to bring people together. They are designed to define who a business is, what employees and customers they want to serve, and what they do.
Think of it in terms of people. As much as you would like to be friends with everyone, it is impossible. You will get closer to people who share your values and beliefs, or those with whom you have a better relationship. You may not be hostile to others, but they are not necessarily friends. And that’s OK! Not everyone will be close to everyone. We understand this intuitively with people. So why are we still trying to write mission statements by committee?
A mission statement defines the values at the heart of a business. This can mean that some employees are not as comfortable with the work culture. This may mean that some candidates may not match this set of values. That’s good – they’ll be happier in another business, and you’ll be happier when everyone is pulling in the same direction. It is not a value judgment, but a difference in direction.
“Our mission statement is very specific to our business,” says Alexy Goldstein, Founder of New U Life. “We have a vision for whole body health by merging nature and science. This is based on my experience as a homeopath and herbalist. This means that we do not appeal to people who are not interested in this, either as employees or as customers. This narrows our field of vision and allows us to focus on the people who genuinely care about the same things as we do. “
Goldstein is not alone. Look at successful companies like Patagonia, for example, which has grown to be hugely successful while remaining true to its core values. Their mission statement is in four parts:
- “Create the best product. “
- “Do no unnecessary harm. “
- “Use businesses to protect nature”.
- “Not bound by convention. “
This is a great example of not appealing to everyone. If you don’t care about the environment or want to cut costs by skimping on quality, you won’t be working for Patagonia. But the people who work for the company are laser-focused on the same values that are important to its founder, Yvon Chouinard.
Related: You can’t be everything to everyone, so stop trying
Dunder Mifflin’s mission statement is fun for several reasons, but one of them is how it keeps going. Again, this is a common misstep as companies try to define themselves by a medley of values that they believe will be important to consumers.
Thomas Jefferson once said, “The most precious of all talents is never to use two words when one is enough. This goes twice for a mission statement, which should, at a glance, tell people exactly what matters to your business. Don’t try to be fancy or beat around the bush. Praise it to someone who does it for a living if you need help.
If you follow these three steps when creating a mission statement, you will create something that will inspire both employees and customers. Tear up that tasteless Dunder Mifflin-style memo and replace it with a new authentic and vibrant MO