Memorable & Meaningful Mission Statements – Part 3
Here’s the last post in my series about making mission statements both memorable & meaningful. The final challenge is: does your mission statement really differentiate your organization?
I’ve seen too many instances where you could easily substitute the name of a competitor in another organization’s mission statement. It’s not unusual to find a lot of “me-too” or similar sounding missions for organizations in the same industry.
This was the situation for one of my nonprofit clients, and here’s how we handled it.
While its organizational charter was somewhat unique, the group’s services overlapped with several other nonprofits. The result was its members, donors, and even board members all had trouble explaining how the organization was different from others in the market.
What’s Your Score?
To illustrate the problem, I developed a “Mission Matching Quiz” for the board’s executive committee retreat. After a web search turned up hundreds of nonprofits offering similar education, research & support services, I selected 10-12 organizations (many fairly well known) and listed them on a sheet of paper with their mission statements in random order. The exec committee was asked to match each organization with its mission.
No one scored 100% on this quiz or even came close … ditto for the rest of the board members and staff. But everyone was astounded by this demonstration in which almost every organization’s mission read & sounded the same! No wonder they were challenged in distinguishing their own organization.
As a result, the group clarified its mission to highlight and better articulate its differentiation. Board leadership continues to refine the mission as needed.
Maintaining & Changing Your Mission
A mission statement is dynamic. As the market changes, as your competition changes, and as your organization evolves in response, you’ll need to update your mission. This is why Peter Drucker encouraged organizations to revisit their mission statements every three years.
When is the last time your organization reviewed its mission? And how memorable & meaningful is it?
It’s an issue of strategic differentiation – if similar organizations have interchangeable mission statements (meaning the mission is stated the same, only the organization’s name is different), then how can that organization & its people truly distinguish themselves in the market? What does the organization really stand for that sets it apart from other players?
On a tactical level, however, some organizations find it easier to articulate their point(s) of differentiation in supportive content rather than in the mission statement itself; e.g., in descriptive copy that underscores what the mission means, or a statement of core principles or values, etc.
I understand that Mission Statements should be memorable and meaningful, but wonder if they have to be different. Do Mission Statements of organizations in similar fields have to be different?