Every company is expected to have a mission statement, but there is little agreement on what a good one looks like. Some people think the mission statement should be short and easy to remember, others think it should include all the company’s major goals, from how it treats its employees to how sustainable it will be.
Scott Adams nicely captured the kitchen-sink variety: “A mission statement is defined as ‘a long awkward sentence that demonstrates management’s inability to think clearly.’ All good companies have one.” A long mission statement covering every good thing a company wants to do quickly loses focus and is difficult to remember.
So what does a good mission statement look like? It should reflect the spirit of an organization rather than being a string of buzzwords or fine-sounding but generic ad copy. It should also reflect what the company actually does to justify its existence. Here are the mission statements of two law enforcement agencies for the same community:
The Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office:
As proud members of this Office, we are dedicated to protect and serve Gallatin County.
The Bozeman Police Department:
The Bozeman Police Department, in partnership with the citizens of Bozeman, is committed to improving the quality of life by identifying and resolving public safety concerns.
The two agencies do much the same work, but the Police Department doesn’t tell you what that work is; the Sheriff’s Office does, in a short, memorable phrase. it’s not flashy, but it is the better mission statement.
A good mission statement says, in just a few words, why people should come to work each day. It gives employees a purpose for their work and tells customers what they can expect. It provides clarity and focus to the entire company, and guides decisions about how the company should work. By stating your mission in a short, easy-to-remember sentence, you improve your odds of accomplishing it.
For more on writing a mission statement, see Mission Statements (pdf).