What really are mission statements?

Published on January 19, 2009

The day-to-day operations of a business is a state of controlled chaos.

Anyone who works in a company/corporation should recognize the fact - rushing to meet datelines, continuous piling up of requests, constraints in time and resources, etc.. While we are constantly working in this ‘chaos’, we must also have a sense of direction. This direction serves not only to keep us moving towards our objectives, but also serves to motivate us when we are lost.

So how do we find this direction?

Every company has a mission statement. Taking Singtel as an example:

We enable communication by breaking barriers and building bonds. We help businesses and people communicate anytime, anywhere and in many ways. We make communications easier, faster, more economical and reliable by …

That is a kind of direction, but a company’s mission statement is more like a smoke screen! They are feel-good mottos developed for only the public! We can even generate with a Mission Generator.

What a company really needs are working mission statements. Working mission statements are clear and meaningful statements, which employees are able to digest and commit to memory easily. Different teams/employees would have different working mission statements that sum up their job activities.

But a working mission is still not enough. To completely define our direction, we need to have a one page Operating Charter, which contains our working mission, primary objectives, secondary objectives, aspirations, quantifiable measures of success and constraints. This is a guide line for a one page Operating Charter:

  • Working Mission: List two or three ideas that sum up your job activities + One core principle + Who you are helping
  • Scope: Defines the parameters in which you work. Be it a particular domain, technology, product or country you work in.
  • Primary Objectives: List no more than six clearly stated roles. This includes primary job responsibilities, areas where you lead and areas where you assist.
  • Secondary Objectives: List no more than two other clearly stated roles that are hoped for, but not mandatory.
  • Aspirations: List no more than three dreams.
  • Quantifiable measures of success: Means you will use to track whether or not you are accomplishing what you set out to do.
  • Constraints: List external factors you cannot control which could have a negative impact on the stated objectives.

Your Operating Charter must be written in one page, and is preferably pinned up on your wall. Operating Charter is flexible and is applicable to a team or to an individual employee.

This post is what I have learnt from the first chapter in The Marketing Game by Eric Schuiz.