Son of Five Rivers Blog

For the advancement of Entrepreneurship, Sustainability & the Ecology of Everyday Life

How to writing a Mission Statement that Works

Mission statements to me are like greeting cards from my lawyer who just signs his name underneath the generic message.  It seems like an unneeded formality where no real thought or meaning was put behind it.  Mission Statements just come across more as great vision statements rather than actually being mission driven. This crazy language is stamped all over the place, from business plans to brochures and websites.  If it’s any consolation to people in the private sector, I’ve spent the last three years working for a non-profit organization (NGO) doing economic revitalization and I’ve noticed that NGO’s might just be the biggest culprits of bad Mission Statements.  Most seem cheesy and sometimes just plain difficult to really comprehend.

It’s always difficult for me to think of bright intelligent people come up with such dry material.  Have a look and compare the following 4 examples directly below and then compare it to the other examples further down to get gist of what I’m getting at.

Two are from real organizations and two are made up from the comic site Dilbert.com

  1. “It is our job to continually foster world-class infrastructures as well as to quickly create principle-centered sources to meet our customer’s needs.”
  2. “Our challenge is to assertively network economically sound methods of empowerment so that we may continually negotiate performance-based infrastructures.”
  3. “To improve lives by mobilizing the caring power of communities.”
  4. “Respect, integrity, communication, and excellence.”

Numbers 1 & 2 are from the Dilbert website. Numbers 3 is the mission statement of the NGO the United Way, and number 4 believe it or not used to belong to the beloved Enron.

Now have a look at the phrase “Big Hairy Audacious Goal” (BHAG) which is a very interesting theory form the book Built to Last.

BHAG: “Clear and compelling it serves as a unifying focal point of effort, often creating immense team spirit. It has a clear finish line, so the organization can know when it has achieved the goal …. A BHAG should not be a sure bet… but the organization must believe ‘we can do it anyway.”

Now check these so out:

Microsoft:  “A computer on every desk and in every home, all running Microsoft software.” The guys don’t want to just sell computer software, they wants their software on every computer, in every home.  (I run Ubuntu an open source operating system based on a Linux platform so it’ll never really happen…  we all know someone with a Mac computer as well.  But its a nice goal for Microsoft to set as it easily and simply defines the standards and objectives for everyone in the organization)


BHAG’s can be used for products as well, like Amazons Kindle: “Every book ever printed, in any language, all available in less than 60 seconds.” Amazon not only wants you help you buy any book, it wants to help you do it in less than a minute.

Google’s mission statement is to “organize the world’s information” That’s as big as a Big Hairy Audacious Goal can get!

Google’s unofficial one is to “do no evil.” That’s just cool!

Even if you’re a grass routes organization starting out of someones living room, its important to have “Big Hairy Audacious Goals” (BHAG).  It helps everyone know your groups direction and purpose.  As the strategic planners and thinkers you have the important duty of laying a solid foundation for the future of the organization and guiding principles for any new faces joining the team.

Son of Five Rivers.

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November 5, 2009 - Posted by | Business, Business Development, Entrepreneurship, Great Ideas | ,

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