Developing mission statements

Developing a mission statement, that is something most of us can do, but once this has been achieved, things become trickier. Nowadays many companies and communities HAVE a mission statement. And it does not really bother anyone, does it?

The key question for developing a mission statement: bottom up or top down

Both approaches in themselves, however, already carry the risk of failure. The extra something which makes a clever mission statement, is to ensure participative involvement from the very beginning. A group of inspired persons can find a splendid result in no time, but: how do you then motivate them in terms of a mission statement? Or the other way round: you can organise many workshops involving many people and thus invite them to specify their vision, still, enthusiasm will gradually fade away and disappointment take over if people cannot identify with an inevitably abstract summary put together by an faceless editing team.

The third way for developing a mission statement

consists of a process that gets many people involved in a transparent and dynamic way. And the most elegant and efficient way is one that involves many persons by means of large group interventions at key points of the process. So, while the mission statement is born, it is simultaneously developed, revised, presented and exemplarily lived. 

This process of simultaneously developing and living the mission statement is based on the following considerations:

1. Mission statement : the connection of content and process

Developing a mission statement cannot be seen separate from its content: especially when it contains terms like "cooperation, participation, teamwork etc, it is obviously the participation of all concerned which is of key importance. Otherwise the content of the mission statement will already have compromised itself at its being developed and announced.

2. Activating and releasing energy for change   

A mission statement should make a certain difference to the previous corporate culture (except when it is all about HAVING a mission statement only). This calls for activating the energy for change, causing a jolt through the organisation, reaching the hearts and hands of all concerned, and sustainably so. Should this fail, the mission statement will also partly fail (to be the guiding star).

Measures that considerably increase the energy for change in terms of developing a mission statement

The management clearly supports the process leading up to a mission statement as well as the result of this process and staff can see its realization happening

  • This sparks everyones enthusiasm across all fields of the organisation
  • development process and roll-out are interactive and dynamic
  • contributions of staff are invited and wanted
  • feasible and plausible next steps for realization/implementation are developed
  • the organisation ensures that action in accordance with the mission statement is rewarded (e.g. by integration into the management-tools)

3.  What does a process towards developing a mission statement require?

Requirements concerning the involvement of staff in the development and roll-out of a mission statement vary considerably. The key question is: what should be the effect on staff? 

These targets can be lined up in a continuum

Information---Acceptance---Identification---Willingness and readiness to act --- agreed measures for implementation

Depending on what should be achieved, development and implementation workshops differ in their time requirements, dynamics and processes.  While a range of 50-250 participants is much the same for our work/shops, facilitation just needs to adjust logistics.

The key factor in the process towards developing a mission statement is the clear, goal-oriented intention of the management combined with serenity and openness as to how the best result will unfold.