Mission Statements . . . Be Careful, There’s a Catch.

Recently I responded to a question about developing a new mission statement by an executive director in upstate New York on www.PCCTalk.org. Below is my response to that question with some modifications.
A mission statement is 1 of 5 primary elements in a strategic plan. Drafting a good mission statement is a two step process; 1) determine your primary objective and 2) Draft the statement.
1. Determine Primary Objective:  It requires that your organization have a good grasp on a single, and highly focused objective for which it is extremely passionate. A good formula for understanding that primary objective is the following:  That which you are passionate about+That for which you have the unique skills to be the best in the world+Resources to support it (See Jim Collins’ “Good to Great and the Social Sectors”).
2. Draft the Statement:  Once you have a clear understanding of your primary objective you are in a good position to draft a mission statement.  The mission statement should be succinct, memorable and have the following elements: Who is performing the mission, what  will be done, how it will be done, and for whom.  For example CompassCare’s local center mission statement is “CompassCare (who) is dedicated to empowering women and men (for whom) to erase the need for abortion (what) by transforming fear into confidence (how).”
If you would like more information CompassCare’s Optimzation Training you can check out the training page on this blog or go to our new training website at www.compasscaretraining.org.

However, creating a mission statement is fraught with communication challenges and if done well will require clearly defining what is meant by the mission by identifying what will be measured to help reveal whether the organization is actually accomplishing the mission; this process is called identifying core measures. This aspect of organizational management in my experience has proven to be the most divisive. A mission statement by its nature does not tell you if you are being effective at accomplishing the mission. Core measures do. So when you create a new mission statement understand that your board, your staff, your volunteers, your donors, etc will interpret this new statement differently . . . they will interpret the new mission statement in the light of their understanding of your CURRENT mission statement. Determining the 10 or 12 key things you want to measure that tell you if you are accomplishing your mission will clarify what is actually meant by the mission. This is where everyone’s personal assumptions about what it is you do and why you do it will be revealed. However, until you get to the point of defining what you will be measuring there will be widespread misunderstanding. I have attached a sample metrics spreadsheet that all the CompassCare OT centers use to help the Executives keep their finger on the pulse of organizational performance around their mission. Modifying your mission statement can have dramatic benefits as well as major pitfalls. Managing the transition will be crucial for a change that actually benefits the organization. Rule of thumb: Over-communicate to everyone.

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