Why Mission Statements Make Me Cry

Axle Davids with Tears on His Face

Mission Statements make me cry. And not in a good way like at the end of Star Wars. (Don't tell anyone).

Pass me a tissue and I'll tell you why...

Mission Statements trick teams.
Teams desire cohesion. They long for alignment. When it is missing, they seek to fill that void - urgently. Since the 'mission statement' is probably the most firmly entrenched meme in business, they say 'We need one!' And then the fun begins. Legion are the times I've heard horror stories about the creation of mission statements, from the front line to mahogany row. Mission statements are supposed to focus an organization, give it purpose, but usually they lead teams to sad, forgotten places.

Mission Statements are mangled.
The other day, someone told me that the FedEx mission statement is "The World on Time." Sorry, this is the FedEx Mission Statement. People routinely mix-up mission statements, vision statements, positioning statements, you name it statements. It amazes me that a business idea can be so routinely mangled, and yet still live on.

Mission Statements are impractical. The ultra-rare quality mission statement is a mash up of 'What is our purpose?' 'Why do we exist?' 'How do we achieve our vision?' Try and answer these questions for yourself in one to three sentences. Good luck! The very idea of a mission statement is too big to metabolize and operationalize. Only when you take the time to unpack the mission statement into its component parts, does it become meaningful - if you are lucky. That's why so few people know the Mission Statement of their firm.

Mission Statements are innately hard to facilitate. As with brand development, the more people you add to the decision making team, the higher the likelihood of a host of decision making pathologies that can sabotage the best intended project. That's the reason you can get ten brilliant team members in a room and come out with a mission statement that is as dumb as a rock.

In my next post, I'll let you in on my dirty little Mission Statement secret.

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