I have a client who’s frustrated with his organization’s mission statement. Stepping back to observe it somewhat objectively, he finds it’s neither memorable nor meaningful.
Both elements are critical. And to give them justice, I’ll focus on the “memorable” aspect now with follow up posts on making a mission statement “meaningful.”
The essence of a mission statement is to briefly articulate your organization’s purpose & reason for being. Its role, according to respected leader Frances Hesselbein, is to help inspire, direct, and mobilize employees. But how can it do any of these if your people don’t know what the mission is?
That’s why a mission statement has to be memorable. And brevity helps. (Most of us can’t remember the Gettysburg address from grade school. So how are we going to be able to remember a three-page mission statement?)
Halt! Who Goes There?
The best way to reinforce a mission statement’s brevity comes from this anecdote shared by consultant/facilitator Tony Nash. He cites Laurie Beth Jones‘ book The Path in which she tells a story she learned from her uncle who served in WWII – an unidentified soldier who appeared suddenly in the dark and could not state his mission was automatically shot.
Based on this story, she cites the following criteria for a good mission statement:
no more than one sentence long
easily understood by a 12 year old
recitable at gunpoint.
Now there’s a formula for a memorable mission statement!
In my next post I’ll talk about making mission statements meaningful, so stay tuned …