Mission Statement

Some people are confused by the intentional delay of considering the mission statement to the second meeting.

The arguments against doing the mission statement later fall into three categories:

  1. It’s the most important thing in strategic planning
  2. Everything else will change, depending on what your mission is
  3. You cannot do (some specific step) if you don’t know your mission

These arguments hold some value, but there are more valid arguments to wait until later in the process that we’ll discuss in a bit.  First, let’s break down these arguments.

  1. It’s the most important thing in strategic planning.

Well – yes and no.  While your mission will give you a strong understanding of who you are – and why you are – we’ve worked with dozens of companies that never discuss their mission in strategic planning.  The reason is simple:  in a well-managed business, the mission is often understood by everyone in the company.  There is little reason to discuss the mission if it’s a useful one that everyone agrees on.  The most important things about the mission in strategic planning is (A) that we will continue to use it and (B) that we are fulfilling it.  When one of these two things isn’t true, it may be time to discuss and possibly, change the mission statement.  At that point, it may be your most important strategic issue, but it’s still not necessarily the first thing you should discuss.

  1. Everything else will change, depending on what your mission is.

Again, yes and no.  Changing the mission will make some strategies less appropriate than others, and it may change, for example, your market segmentation.  When the mission is dramatically changed, it often drives several critical implementation objectives, as well.  However, none of this will change the facts of where you are, which is what you should look at in the first part of the strategic planning process.  We do put the mission before the goals, objectives and implementation plans, because those should all support the mission.  It is extremely rare – though possible – that you may need to circle back and revise the strategy, if the mission changes radically enough, BUT this possibility has always been quite clear when we reach this point in the process.

  1. You cannot do (some specific step) if you don’t know your mission.

This is pure poppycock.  Hundreds of companies consider every other part of their strategic plan without discussing or – in some cases – even understanding the mission of the organization.  Does it help to know the mission?  Absolutely.  Is it required?  No.  And if your mission is so ill defined that your team can’t guess what it is (at least approximately), it’s very likely to be part of the initial discussions about market segments and assumptions.

Now, given these thoughts, you may already be inclined to leave the mission statement until later.  Beyond this, there are powerful reasons to delay discussion of the mission, as well.  These will be discussed in our next post.

For great ideas on how to improve the quality of your planning, contact me at rbradford@cssp.com.   Consider holding a one-day workshop on Simplified Strategic Planning.In-house Workshop

To learn Why Strategic Plans Fail, click here.

Robert Bradford is President & CEO of the Center for Simplified Strategic Planning, Inc.  He can be reached at rbradford@cssp.com.

M. Dana Baldwin is Senior Strategist with Center for Simplified Strategic Planning, Inc. He can be reached by email at: baldwin@cssp.com

Co-Author, M. Dana Baldwin

Robert Bradford

Co-Author, Robert Bradford

1 Comment

  1. Tom McAuliffe

    Nice article. As the old saying goes, “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.”


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