There once was a time that every business plan had a mission or a vision statement, and we did them basically because we were told we were supposed to. That's ancient history now, I hope. Whether it's mission, mantra, or vision, you do it because it's good for your business. Which means you're going to use it, or you don't bother.
I've been mistrusting mission statements since the early 1980s when I first started writing and reading business plans. They're so often nothing but hype. I credit Guy Kawasaki for exposing meaningless mission statements to the world in 2006, by asking:
- do the employees know what the mission is; and
- could anybody tell, from reading the mission, your company from any other?
I say a mission statement should explain what the company does for each of the three main stakeholders: customers, employees, and owners. I'm amazed at how few of them talk about more than high ideals they supposedly hold.
Do you have a mission statement? Do you know what's in it? Does it talk about what the company does for all three groups?
I confused vision with mission for many years, and that was while making a living helping companies with business planning. It turns out, I discovered eventually, that a vision is a view of the future. Think of the relationship between visions and dreams. Imagine what your company should be (its size, its business offerings, its customers, and so forth) three years from now. That's your vision. It's useful for some organizations, less so for others.
The mantra is just three or four words, a reminder of the most essential boiled-down core of what you're doing. Guy Kawasaki suggests* Federal Express should be 'peace of mind,' for example, and Nike should be 'authentic athletic performance.' Does your company have a mantra? Could you create one?
And Why Do You Care?
Remember for all three of these sometimes-business-plan-components, they're all about business fundamentals: it's about business, not the document. If you don't get business benefits from any of these, then don't bother.
What you're most likely to get are two benefits related to strategy.
- First, strategy is focus. Strategy is very much about what you're doing, as in what are the key elements of the business that make the most difference, and also what you're not doing. Mission, vision, or mantra can help make those key elements clearer.
- Second, strategy means nothing without implementation, and implementation depends on habit or habit-like behavior. It's about reminders. We're all busy out in the real world, so we need to be reminded, on a regular basis, about what's really important, and what isn't.
So mission, vision, or mantra, well used, can be tools to help you develop, maintain, and implement a business strategy. And if they aren't that, and if you can't find any other essential business purpose, then maybe you don't waste your time with them.
For more information on this, click here* for a summary with some additional related links.
*Not a government website.