Defined: Mission

Continuing with the strategic planning vocabulary from last week, today I want to focus on the trunk of the tree, “mission”. Quite simply, “mission” is the organization’s purpose (with a twist). It answers the question, “Why do we exist?” While that sounds easy, it can be challenging to articulate this well. Like the trunk of a tree, the mission is big, strong, and unwavering. It is directly connected to the roots (core values) too.

You might be thinking that the purpose for your organization is obvious. Maybe you own a few coffee shops… Isn’t the purpose to provide quality coffee beverages and an excellent experience for the customer? Yes and no. That is absolutely part of the purpose, but a well stated mission will go beyond that (the aforementioned twist), answering additional questions like:

  • Why do we exist in these locations/cities/regions?
  • How are we different from other organizations like ours?
  • What is our primary objective?
  • What will we do to change the world, impact our community, or improve the lives of our customers?

Mission is about more than profits, products, or posturing. Mission is about impact. What stamp can your organization leave on the world (or at least, what stamp are you going to attempt to leave). The reason for that clarification is that a mission should be something so bold, so grand that it is likely to never be fully accomplished. And if it is ever fully accomplished, the organization should cease to exist. Mission accomplished. Time to close up shop.

Consider the American Cancer Society. Their mission is, “… to save lives, celebrate lives, and lead the fight for a world without cancer.”* If, 10 years from now, cancer has been eradicated (their mission accomplished), what reason would there be for the American Cancer Society to continue raising money, orchestrating events, or existing at all? That’s what a mission should be. So, for our coffee shop example, maybe the mission is, “…to provide the best coffee beverages and customer experiences in the Midwest so that every customer walks out our doors having a better day then when they walked in.” Is it bold & grand? Yes, it is. Will it ever be fully accomplished? Probably not. Is it a purpose for which to strive? Definitely.

So be bold and be grand in stating your mission, or “purpose with a twist”. Ensure your mission is as mighty as an oak (rather than the baby tree in the picture above).

*American Cancer Society mission: