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Does Having an Organizational “Mission” Still Matter?

Does Having an Organizational “Mission” Still Matter?

Most organizational leaders, in companies small and large, have long been aware that they broadly benefit from having a clear vision and mission (even though they may have done little to act on this knowledge in practice). In simple terms, the “vision” is where the organization is trying to go, in 3, 5 or even 10 years time, and the mission is the organizations’ main focus or purpose. While a vision has a fixed time horizon and can and should therefore change every few years, a mission or purpose statement by definition prevails through time (or at least 2-3 times longer than the vision at a minimum usually). Where it gets attention at all, a mission statement is therefore often crafted once and then ignored and perhaps even regarded as relatively unimportant. In other words, the organizational mission is deemed not to matter anymore. In this brief article we will argue that this attitude leads to a number of missed opportunities.

As bland as they can often be, a mission statement should describe what an organization is in business to do or its fundamental purpose. If this is well crafted it is not only a strong driver of organizational performance but can be even more powerful in recruiting customers to the organization. The Gallup research company has identified five factors behind the benefits of crafting an effective mission and then focusing on it or making it a centerpiece of how an organization’s managers lead:

  • A well-crafted mission drives loyalty and synergy across employees and across the generations. Understanding a company’s purpose helps employees answer yes to the question “Do I belong here?” Gallup’s research shows that ensuring employees have opportunities to do what they do best every day and emphasizing mission and purpose are the two strongest factors for retaining Millennials, Generation Xers, and Baby Boomers. More than one in four Millennials strongly agree with the statement “If the job market improves in the next 12 months, I will look for a job with a different organization.” This makes it more important than ever to focus on strengths and mission to drive down the cost of turnover.
  • Mission helps to drive customer engagement and make customers more “sticky”. A strong mission promotes brand differentiation, consumer passion, and brand engagement. Unfortunately, according to Gallup. only about four in 10 employees (41%) know what their company stands for and what makes its brand different from its competitors’. This lack of brand awareness is not a marketing problem; it is a mission-driven leadership and management problem.
  • Mission improves strategic alignment. Alignment begins with a clear purpose, or what is our propose and why do we do what we do. Mission can help leaders establish and balance priorities, set performance goals, and align rewards and compensation at all levels. If a company’s mission includes a promise to provide the highest possible quality, for example, then you should define and measure “highest possible quality” and hire employees who believe in creating a quality outcome and can deliver on that promise.
  • Mission brings clarity. Awareness of mission guides decision-making and judgment. A clear sense of what matters most helps leaders determine the best path for the company and helps them set priorities. This clarity inspires conviction and dedication.
  • Mission can be measured. To maximize the value of the mission, leaders need a reliable assessment of employees’ attitudes about their work and how it connects with the company’s purpose (something which Gallup measures directly of course). Leaders and managers should use this information to guide them as they tackle the challenge of helping employees connect their work behaviors to the company’s ultimate purpose.

In summary then a mission or purpose statement is a potentially hugely compelling step when done well and serves as not only a clarion call to customers to better appreciate what is being offered by a given organization but it also serves as a standard against which employees can be assessed in terms of their skills, knowledge, and talent to deliver on the mission promise.

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About Dr. Jon Warner

Dr. Jon Warner is a prolific author, management consultant and executive coach with over 25 years experience. He has an MBA and a PhD in Organizational Psychology. Jon can be reached at OptimalJon@gmail.com

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About the Editor and Primary Author

Jon Warner

Jon Warner is an executive coach and management consultant and in the past has been a CEO in three very different companies. Read more

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