Strategic Planning Framework: The Importance of Mission

The following is an excerpt of a blog post reprinted with permission from AchieveIt.

It's time that mission and vision statements get their just rewards. They are so important to developing strategy and driving execution, yet they are often overlooked as critical elements of the strategic planning framework, even though they serve as the bookends for every strategic and operational plan. In short, the mission provides the starting point and the vision provides the destination. Without mission and vision, plans can wander around aimlessly, travelling to a lot of exotic locales, but never actually going anywhere. Think of mission and vision statements as your strategic planning framework.

In this blog, the first of two parts, we tackle mission statements as a critical component of your strategic planning framework.

Mission statements answer the question, "Why do we exist?" It gives the organization purpose and meaning and speaks to why people want to work for your company. If you're a for-profit organization, the fundamental mission of the business is to create shareholder wealth, but that won't attract anyone to come work for you, and it does not give rise to a bigger corporate purpose.

Every organization needs to define its fundamental purpose, philosophy and values, as well as develop a strong foundation for its strategic planning framework. The mission statement answers the basic questions of why your company exists and describes the needs your company was created to fulfill. This is not about the products and services you provide; rather, it is about why you provide them.

For instance, the mission of my company, AchieveIt, is "to help organizations execute smarter, faster, and better." To my team, it is about accelerating the results curve. We come to work every day driven by getting more and better results faster — whether for our own company or for the clients we serve.  How we do this is through our software suite and related support services, which are continually being enhanced to drive improved results. But how we accomplish our mission today may be different than how we accomplish it tomorrow. The mission points us in the right direction. Our strategic and operational plans become the road map. Without the guidance of our mission statement, programmatic priorities would be difficult to establish. Without a strong mission statement, our strategic planning framework would be ineffective.

The mission statement, therefore, provides the basis for judging the success of an organization and its programs. It helps to verify if the organization is on the right track and making the right decisions. It provides direction and a strategic planning framework when the organization must adapt to new demands. Attention to mission helps the organization adhere to its primary purpose and serves as a touchstone for decision making during times of conflict. Once this strategic planning framework is in place it is very easy to fill in your goals, objectives, strategies and tactics because you know where you'd like to be.

The mission statement can also be used as a tool for resource allocation. A powerful mission statement attracts staff, donors, volunteers and community involvement.

Strategic Planning Frameworks Driven by Powerful Mission Statements

Consider these powerful mission statements:
•    Harley-Davidson: We fulfill dreams through the experiences of motorcycling. [i]
•    Southwest Airlines: We are dedicated to the highest level of customer service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and company spirit. [ii]
•    MD Anderson Cancer Center: To make cancer history. [iii]
•    Google: To organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful. [iv]

Notice that none of these organizations' mission statements include anything about what they do; instead, they focus on the inner core of their existence. It is this inner core that attracts and retains employees, provides market differentiation, and attracts customers. For instance, Harley-Davidson has an insanely loyal customer base that now includes more than 250 clubs who provide thousands of volunteer hours through the Harley-Davidson Foundation. These are people attracted to Harley-Davidson because they share a common belief that absolute freedom is found on a motorcycle on the open road.

Even if your organization has a succinct, empowering mission statement like Harley-Davidson's, it should be revisited on a regular basis. If your organization conducts strategic planning, the mission statement should be discussed — and even evaluated — at the beginning of every planning cycle. It is of the utmost importance to keep your strategic planning framework strong and in place. Why? One of the fundamental purposes of strategic planning is to fulfill the mission; revisiting the mission ensures your strategic plan succeeds in that regard. Beyond strategic planning, you should consider revising your mission statement if you answer "no" to any of the follow eight questions:

1.    Is it short (10 words or less) and sharply focused? Would it fit on a t-shirt? A bumper sticker? A billboard?
2.    Do staff, management and board members know the mission statement? Is it clear and easily understood?
3.    Can you train around it? Does everyone in the organization know exactly how to fulfill the mission every day?
4.    Does it define why you do what you do?
5.    Does it provide direction for doing the right things?
6.    Does it inspire your passion and commitment?
7.    Does it say, in the end, what you want to be remembered for?
8.    Have you revisited your mission statement in the last three years?

To help you develop a powerful mission statement that answers the question "Why do we exist?", we offer a white paper entitled "Mission Statements: A How-To," which you can download by clicking this link.

[i] http://files.shareholder.com/downloads/HDI/0x0x329002/fe33c217-5914-4dc1-ae6d-44374a5806c9/bckgrdr.pdf
[ii] http://www.southwest.com/assets/pdfs/corporate-commitments/southwestcares.pdf
[iii] http://www.mdanderson.org/about-us/facts-and-history/index.html
[iv] http://www.google.com/about/

More Articles on AchieveIt:

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Creating a Culture of Innovation

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