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Is your mission statement working?

Is your mission statement working?

Who among us among us has not had the horrible experience of a corporate offsite to build teamwork and to craft a mission statement?

The offsite usually went like this:

Day 1: Teambuilding. Selection of cross-functional teams so that, God help us, engineering has to work with sales. A day of exercises such as, “Each of you will come up to the front of the group, turn your back to the group, close your eyes, and fall backwards into the arms of your colleagues. This will teach you to trust your fellow employees.”

Day 2: Crafting the mission statement. A hot, crowded room with easels of white paper and a facilitator who knows nothing about your business. Everyone who is Management level in the company is there-that’s sixty people. You each figure you get one word, so at the end of the day; you have a sixty word mission statement like this:

“The mission of Hungry Hamburger is to deliver superior quality products and services for our customers and communities through leadership, innovation, and partnerships.”

Don’t get me wrong. I love Hungry Hamburger, but I’ve never thought I was participating in “leadership, innovation, and partnerships” when I ordered a Thick shake there. The root cause of mission statement-itis is that most organizations are run by people who have gotten an MBA and need to use get some value from their investment.

If you don’t agree that it is just as useful creating short, different, and meaningful mission statements, go ahead and spend the $30,000 for the offsite, facilitator, and consultants to create one. Here’s a useful alternative- how about developing a mantra for your organization. A mantra is three or four words long. Tops. Its purpose is to help employees truly understand why the organization exists.

If I were the CEO of Hungry Hamburger, I would establish a corporate mantra of “healthy fast food.” End of story. Here are more examples of corporate mantras to inspire you:

Avis: “We try harder”
Nike: “Authentic athletic performance”
Mary Kay “Enriching women’s lives”

Target: “Good design for everybody”

Nothing complex, romantic, or clever about a mantra, but it’s a far more compelling and memorable way to define the meaning of whom you are and why you matter to people.

By the way, our mantra here at Bandura is “successfully building human capital”. In four simple words we tell you what benefit we provide your business. We don’t have a mission statement.

The ultimate test for a mantra (or mission statement) is if your telephone operators (Sheila and Biff) can tell you what it is. If they can, then you’re onto something meaningful and memorable. If they can’t, then, well, it sucks.