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Is Your Mission Meaningful?

Is Your Mission Meaningful?

April 14, 2008

Most organizations have mission statements that articulate their purpose and reason for being. But how meaningful are they?

Try this interesting two-part experiment:

• If you were to randomly approach employees and ask them to repeat the company’s mission, how many would be able to repeat it?
• Of the employees who can actually recite your company’s mission statement, how many would be able to explain what it means?

A mission statement has to be memorable, and brevity helps. Most of us can’t remember the Gettysburg address from grade school. So how can we expect employees to remember a three-page mission statement?

But awareness and being able to repeat the corporate mission are not enough. While most mission statements are beautifully crafted, they are not easy to relate to. For example, mission statements abound that promise “to provide quality and innovative solutions” … “to exceed customer expectations” … “to provide superior results for shareholders”… As good as these terms sound, they are relative and abstract.

A mission statement is not meaningful unless it is made real and applicable, and this involves translating the mission into specific (and preferably measurable) behaviors. For example, assume you have been hired as a teller by the Friendliest National Bank. At orientation you are told: “Welcome to the Friendliest National Bank, where our name is our motto.” (Sound familiar?) But at this orientation the bank goes one step further to explain the mission in terms of its expectations, and you are told the following:

“Being a teller at the Friendliest National Bank means:

• Welcoming all customers with a smile and appropriate greeting.
• Using the customer’s name during the transaction.
• Processing each transaction according to bank standards.
• Suggesting other bank services that may be helpful.
• Concluding transactions with a smile and a thank you.

Now you know what type of behavior is expected of you as a teller at the Friendliest National Bank.

Once you translate the mission into specific behaviors, the next step is to use every opportunity to explain it, repeat it, and demonstrate it in communications with employees; e.g., in orientation, training, internal newsletters, staff meetings, posters, employee badges, etc., whatever is appropriate for your organization. This includes sharing information and success stories on how employees successfully live up to the mission.

It is only when employees clearly understand what is expected of them in fulfilling the mission – when the mission is made real and meaningful – that they can start to internalize it. 

Information courtesy of Taking Care of the People Who Matter Most: A Guide to Employee-Customer Care

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