Cue the theme music….dun, dun, da, da, dun, dun, da, da…..”Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to join an elite committee charged with crafting the organization’s mission statement.” No you’re not dreaming. There is no awaking from this nightmare.
Why is it that what should be our crowning glory—the moment when we are selected to help define for what our company stands—we freeze like deer in the headlights? Visions of the torture chamber surface: “You vill nut be reeleezed undil you hev da pervect mizhun stetmint!”
Whether locked in a conference room or at an offsite, pressure builds as tight schedules close in and taxed imaginations struggle to come up with the penultimate mission statement. The Powers That Be pace the corridors waiting to announce the new “baby” to the constituents. Meanwhile, the agony of creation becomes as painful as an elephant giving birth to twins.
It doesn’t need to be this hard. Generally, the process is plagued by a couple of things. First, participants, like students in a classroom, struggle to come up with the “right” answer, rather than a real answer. Everybody wants to win kudos. Second, organization leaders tend to follow some unwritten rule that every mission statement must be expressed in dull corporate-speak. Oxymoronically, the statement that should describe the passion and vision that drives a company is edited down to emotionless, meaningless clichés that suck the lifeblood from the reader.
The way out of this dilemma is fairly simple: define your goals for the mission statement at the start and revisit those goals during the process to stay on track. Make your goals realistic—you will never inspire anyone with a goal that is unattainable or alien to your actual operating style. Avoid clichés and platitudes—keep it real. A fun exercise is to take ten corporate or organizational mission statements. Pick out the common words (for example, value-added, empower, shareholder value) and strike them from your draft. Once you get away from these “crutches” and dig deep to discover the reason your business exists, you can build a mission statement that is true, realistic and inspirational.
Now, take this advice, go forth and motivate! May your mission be a success.
(Of course, if you find your mission truly impossible, there’s always Dilbert’s Mission Statement Generator.)
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