How to Write Killer Mission and Vision Statements to shape corporate culture
Identifying, shaping, and evolving your corporate culture is key to creating an environment in which effective organisational change is not only achievable, but also part of your business strategy. Key to this process is having clear, concise, and understandable mission and vision statements.
Before you start to craft your mission and vision statements, let’s remind ourselves of the key differences between the two.
How mission and vision statements are poles apart
A mission statement should answer four main questions about the organisation:
- What do we do?
- Where do we do it?
- Who do we serve?
- What is our core purpose?
A vision statement should answer a number of different questions:
- Where does the organisation wish to be in five or ten years?
- What are the organisation’s aims and goals for the future?
- What tangible goals does the organisation’s aspirations have?
Make time to write mission and vision statements
Writing your mission and vision statements provides a great opportunity to really get into the heart of your business, focus the minds of senior executives, and give clarity to current and future strategy. You should be able to have fun, be creative, and encourage plenty of dialogue in this process. You should also remember the process must be taken seriously, and simply can’t be completed within a few minutes. Indeed, it could take several days or weeks to get it right, and when finally putting down on paper it is best to employ the services of a professional writer.
Five steps to writing a meaningful mission statement
The best mission statements will feel engaging. It won’t be stale, dry, or flaky. It will define your organisation’s position in the market, and its beliefs and values.
The very best mission statements come from those who talk to customers, employees, and owners (and perhaps even the wider community).
Here are five steps I recommend when putting together a mission statement that will promote the corporate culture you want it to:
Step 1: Tell the story
The organisation’s story won’t be in the mission statement, but it does need to be considered. It is the basis of identity, and forms the basis of answering the question: why does the organisation exist? It is this story that explains the uniqueness of the organisation, what it does, and what it doesn’t do. This is the background that will flow through as the subconscious of the next steps.
Step 2: Define the benefits your organisation gives its customers
Now think about the benefits your customers reap by using your products and services. What is unique about what you do? Don’t be modest: you make a difference to people, otherwise they wouldn’t be your customers. Think about the products you use, the people you employ, and the markets you serve.
Does your business have green credentials, fill a gap in local communities, or help educate or inform?
Write everything down, and think about what values and beliefs dictate your services and product offerings.
Step 3: Define what the organisation does for its employees
When your employees are engaged, productivity rises and turnover falls. It is corporate culture that drives this engagement, drawing employees into strategy and process management.
Are your employee-hiring processes fair? Do you offer training and personal development opportunities? Do your people have the opportunity to grow within the organisation? What about the tools available to them? Do you use external sources to educate your people, and what type of assessment and appraisal procedure is in place?
You may want to discuss how your organisation values fair compensation, a healthy environment for employees, and diversity. Be honest, and think about what makes your organisation unique for employees – why should people want to work for you?
Write all this down.
Step 4: Define what the organisation does for its owners
Your stakeholders include owners and shareholders. I expect that you’ll want to increase shareholder value, but that may not be the only benefit that owners receive. Profits and return on investment may be deemed to be important; but what about steady cash flow, place in society, and other owner benefits?
Again, write it all down.
Step 5: Pull it together
Now sit down as a management team and discuss everything that has been written down. Edit everything that has been written down. Cut out what is superfluous, revise what is left, and polish until it sparkles.
This is the point at which you may feel the need to hire a professional writer, and then have it re-edited. The time, effort, and cost will pay dividends as all your employees and stakeholders become empowered by a clear, concise, and meaningful mission statement. Make it unique, and bring some of your key stakeholders into the process. Ask for their opinions and their input. Then edit one last time.
Five steps to writing an effective vision statement
The vision statement is your idea of the future state. It will be forward-looking, inspiring, and should contain tangible end goals.
Step 1: Be ambitious
Make a list of all your objectives for the next five to ten years. Even if some of these goals appear impossible, write them down. Bring in a few executives and/or employees to brainstorm ideas.
Step 2: Align ambitions with values
Think about your core values, and align your short and medium-term objectives with these. Ask yourself how your goals can remain aligned with values and beliefs, and begin to identify the big picture of your desired future state.
Step 3: Identify problems and showstoppers
This is the stage where you start to think about practicalities of your aims, and any problems that might prevent you from achieving them. Think about target customers, and what success will look like in terms of all your stakeholders.
What will be your achievements for customers, and will they resonate with employees, too? What will the organisation look like if you accomplish everything you set out to? This may be the defining moment of the whole process, the one where the vision statement really starts to shine and enthuse.
Step 4: Review, edit, polish
Go through all your ideas, think about the practicalities, edit your words, and put a polish to the plans. Go through the whole process several times until you are happy with the final cut. Again, don’t be afraid to ask a professional to make sure your vision mission does what it is designed to do: enthuse, inspire, empower, and engage.
Whether you are writing a mission statement or vision statement, keep the following in mind:
- Paint a clear picture
- Make it inspiring
- Make it desirable to all your stakeholders
- Ensure it is feasible, with tangible goals
- Keep it focused on its objective
- Make sure it is unique
- Write it in clear, understandable and accessible language
Your completed mission and vision statements will provide your people, suppliers, and customers a real and tangible understanding of your organisation, its values and beliefs, and provide impetus to the creation of the corporate culture that will enable your future vision to be achieved.
But you’ll need to nurture the corporate culture: that means using the mission and vision statements to their best effect, which is what we discuss in the last part of this series.
Part Three: How to Write Killer Mission and Vision Statements