Myth of the Mission Statement

Mission Statement


Mission Statements… you just gotta have one—right?

Well, if you listen to the strategic planners, experts, and pundits, you will surely believe that without a mission statement your company is doomed.

But, before you get too excited over mission statements, try answering the following questions for either the company you own, or the one you currently work for:

  • Does your company have a mission statement?
  • Do you know, generally, what the major points are—without looking them up?
  • Are all employees well acquainted with your company’s mission statement?
  • Is your mission statement ever referred to, or is it hidden away in some manual?
  • Most important—does your company culture reflect its mission statement?

Here’s the problem as I see it: I have been a CEO or business consultant over many decades and I have seen a lot of mission statements—a few of them even very well written.

But, rarely have I seen a company that had successfully built its culture around its mission statement.

Typically, mission statements are created, and then abandoned. They quickly become obsolete—much like business plans.

Most mission statements are composed of such tired clichés and meaningless words that they are useless almost before the ink dries.

Paragraphs of worn out platitudes will do nothing to either set, or alter, the culture of your company.

What The Experts Say

I recently viewed a website on strategic planning that said a mission statement had to address 9 major components: customers, products, markets, technology, survival, philosophy, self-concept, public image, and employees.

That website went on to say that strategic practitioners and academics all agreed that a mission statement must be comprehensive and include all 9 major components… and that the document could be up to 250 words.

I randomly looked up a couple of these bloated mission statements and it’s hard to believe that anyone would call that meaningless drivel a “mission statement.”

On The Other Hand…

Companies—especially startups—constantly miss a golden opportunity to set a solid foundation for the development of their company culture when they don’t create a meaningful mission statement.

A great mission statement could be the foundation for both the culture of a company and the building of its brand.

Unfortunately, many companies get so enamored with the actual physical creation of a mission statement document they overlook the importance it could play in building the culture they want.

Too many companies end up with a manifesto instead of a mission statement.

I believe a useful mission statement should be short—maybe about 10 words or so… or less. I don’t care if you call it a motto, a goal, a vision statement, or a mission statement—it needs to be read and understood by everyone, and become an integral part of your company’s culture.

A bloated mission statement that few people understand will do more harm than good.

Here are some actual mission statement samples of what I mean about keeping it short and also serve as the foundation for your company culture:

Becton, Dickinson, and company

Mission: “To help all people live healthy lives.”

(As an employee, I could fully understand what this company’s mission is, and why I should do the best job I can to support their culture.)

CVS Pharmacy

Mission: “We will be the easiest pharmacy retailer for customers to use.”

(As an employee, these words should be my mantra as I do my job. As a customer, it gives me a confident feeling… if the culture manifests the mission.)

The Hershey Company

Mission: “Undisputed Marketplace Leadership.”

(That should be pretty clear to every one—no platitudes or b.s. here—this is something to build a culture around.)

If you’re going to have a mission statement, you need to create one that every employee and every customer can relate to.

Everything an employee does should be in support of your mission statement, because it should be the foundation that supports your culture.

Also, the customer should have every experience be a reflection of your mission statement and be reassured every time they see your mission statement… and they should see it.

So, here’s my parting shot: Try hard to come up with a short, meaningful statement that represents the essence of your company… then build your entire culture around that foundation statement.

If you can’t easily do that… forget a mission statement altogether… it will only look silly (as most of them do) and detract from the culture you hope to build.

Do you have any comments out there about mission statements?… I’d like to hear them.


2 thoughts on “Myth of the Mission Statement

  1. Hi Bob,

    I wanted to extend a personal thank you for the help you provide to entrepreneurs. You seem to not only understand the logistics but also the emotion state some go through when beginning what can be an exciting but terrifying experience. My partner is the entrepreneur but as one beginning to take over the bookkeeping and social media, I feel like I must engage in some of the same mindsets. I will utilize your expertise often and appreciate your interest in helping others.

    Thank You,
    Amanda Cartwright
    D Bar Garage Doors
    Portland, OR 97222

    1. Hi Amanda,

      Thank you for your comment and kind words. With so many small businesses failing every day I sometimes wonder if I’m wasting my time. But, if only one business receives some benefit from my websites I feel my efforts are worth it.

      Good luck in your enterprise, and thanks again.


Leave a Reply