Thursday, June 25, 2009

Mission Statement for Structure

(photo by Pondst)

The keystone is the crowning piece at the apex of an arch, locking all of the other pieces in place. The weight of all the other structural stones is supported by the keystone. Similarly, the mission statement is the structural glue to all other elements of school culture. The mission statement becomes the deciding criteria, a pivotal lens, for all decisions with one simple question: does this idea, this project, this person support the mission? The mission statement is like the keystone in an arch, the critical element of the organization's architectural structure.

The mission statement is the solemn promise that you as an organization of people make to your customers, asking for their trust in your collective performance on that promise on a day-to-day, consistent basis throughout your environment. Collective – that means everybody, top to bottom, in the system, making good on the promise, everyday, consistently. Thus, the whole organization needs to become mission-driven: dedicated and focused on fulfilling the promise laid out by the mission statement.

A good mission statement has to be purposeful, meaningful, specific, concise, and clear. A clear message means that it is understood clearly, not that it was just sent clearly. The sender is responsible for the understanding of the message. The mission statement must focus on what you will do without fail for your customers. For a school, that means answering what are you promising to do for your students and their families? For a hospital, that means answering what do you promise to do for each patient and his loved ones? For the U.S. Federal Court Clerks, which I helped craft a vision and mission statement recently, that means answering what to you intend to do to assist and serve the public?

The mission statement is action-oriented. Your promise should have action verbs – develop, instill, create, inspire, support, serve, meet, etc. The regional U.S. Federal Court Clerks make this promise: to serve the public and support the court with a commitment to excellence.

(We promise) To ____________ whom by doing what, how?

That is the basic construction. Your promise might have multiple components. Here is how you know if you have too many: can you recite it easily from memory? Can your teachers? Can your parents? Can your students? This is a must because it is essential that we all know what we come to school to accomplish every day. A good target length is no more than 20 words.

The mission statement is not a description of who you are and what you believe. The mission statement is a promise of what you will do, if given the opportunity.

Here are some examples of promises companies we are all familiar with have made:

Google To organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.

3M To solve unsolved problems innovatively.

Southwest Airlines To provide the highest quality of customer service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and company spirit.

Marriott Hotel To make people who are away from home feel they are among friends and really

When you make a promise, you are expected to work to fulfill it. You have asked the permission of the person to whom you made the promise to trust you to deliver, to perform. The critical action set up by the mission statement, therefore, is performance. A mission-driven environment is one in which everyone is committed to making good each day on the stated promise. The whole culture, it follows, must be set up to encourage and support mission delivery. This is terrific news because the whole culture can be infused with a dynamic sense of purpose and intention.

As other stones extend from the keystone, other elements of the organizational culture are integrated with the mission statement. The core values statement articulates the values that you collectively rely on, hold dear, as a community. The vision statement speaks to your future, articulates what sort of environment you intend to create and what you intend it to look like.

I like to create two additional written statements to the organizational architecture that both derive from the mission statement: your mantra, which is a short phrase that encapsulates how you will fulfill your mission, like Nike’s Just do it. The mantra keeps everyone on track and motivated. I also like to craft a position statement that outlines what you do best that is unique from all other competitors in your industry.

As organizational structure, we are talking about written statements that all fit on one page, all built upon the mission statement, the promise to the customer. These statements give the culture architectural structure and guidance. This type of organizational design is worth every bit of time, money, energy, and intellectual resources to have everyone literally, emotional, and energetically on the same page in performance expectations.

For the money, for the effort, for the long term sustainable results: mission statement and performance. Making a promise and fulfilling it. Telling the story of why that mission for your organization. Painting the picture of what the world will look like as a result of your fulfilling your mission. Telling the stories of how you fulfill your promise in big and small ways with many different customers everyday. And, becoming known in your community for walking your talk, embodying your mission and relishing the integrity and pride that comes with that reality everyday for every member of the organization.

Mission. Promise. Performance.

By the way, a great reputation markets itself. Focus on being your best self as an organization and you will have a myriad of authentic stories to tell of the difference you make in the neighborhood, community, and world.

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