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Examples of Mission Statements That Don't Work

written by: Gwen Hagaman•edited by: Elizabeth Wistrom•updated: 12/9/2010

We’ve all read them and wept... mission statements that don't work. What does this company do? Why are these people in business? Read on to learn more about where mission statements go wrong, and what steps you can take to ensure your mission statement doesn't fall into the same trap.

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    Generic Jargon Equals Boring

    Mission statements don’t work when they are too generic, confusing or long. In an effort to cover everything in a couple of sentences, mission statements can become disconnected from the company’s core product and purpose. As a result, they simply alienate the public and confuse employees. If you cannot identify what a company does by reading their mission statement, it will not inspire anyone. Here are some examples of mission statements which miss the mark:

    “We are the most successful company in the world at delivering the best customer experience in markets we serve.”

    “We will be the best solution in the eyes of our customers, employees and shareholders.”

    “Our company specializes in assertively networking economically sound methods of empowerment so that we may continually negotiate performance-based solutions.”

    “Our goal is to be the leading company in satisfying customers while making money and providing jobs to employees who believe in satisfying customers.”

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    How Does This Happen?

    Often, companies assemble a committee of their top-tier managers to compose a new mission statement. These respected leaders represent various departments and perspectives. It is thought that their participation will result in “buy in” company-wide, and that their contributions will provide insight. The anticipated result is a mission statement that will brand the company and last for years.

    Unfortunately, here’s what can happen:

    A facilitator (maybe you?) is in the conference room with a large white board. A group of managers who have departmental viewpoints of the company sit around the room. The current mission statement is written on the white board as a starting point. Everyone agrees that the current mission statement is not working.

    Someone in the room starts the process with a pretty clear and basic mission statement. Then the “tweaks” begin. A word is changed for a more powerful or inspiring word. The core product is changed to a more general category that will include the company’s peripheral activities. Language that may offend is removed. Pretty soon, the new mission statement looks pretty much like the old one. Sound familiar?

    To avoid the “committee syndrome,” and creating lackluster mission statements, don’t work against yourself. Keep the development committee to a very small group with a marketing perspective. A group of 2 or 3 people will be able to stay focused on the core products and purpose of the company.

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    Qualities of Strong Mission Statements

    A good mission statement -- one which is straight forward and inspiring -- will bring people closer to your cause. To help your company achieve a compelling mission statement, remember to get right to the point. Briefly state the work and passion of your company. Here are some examples of effective mission statements:

    “To organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” (Google)

    “We save people money so they can live better.” (Walmart)

    “To spice up everyday life.” (Chili’s Grill and Bar)

    Each of these examples are very brief and easy for their employees to remember. They address the product/service the company offers (ie: an information portal, low cost products and spicy foods). Most importantly, they each imply the passion or personality of the company.

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    What Can a Mission Statement Do for a Company?

    Good mission statements provide employees, shareholders, and other supporters with a clear vision of the company’s reason for being. They are a rally point. They help people make decisions about day-to-day transactions. It’s pretty cool to work for a company that serves a clear purpose, especially if it’s one you support.

    Mission statements define the company and become part of their marketing identity. The mission statement should be short enough that people can remember it. Share it with the world. Customers and employees should know the mission statement. Businesses should operate in compliance with the purpose outlined in their mission statement.

    If the company is changing substantially, updating the mission statement can help to drive that transformation. It will help the public and your members to understand and support the new direction.

    In a business environment full of competitors, a well-written mission statement can accentuate the differences between your company and others. Use it to explain why you are different and a better choice for consumers.