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Producing a corporate mission.

Introduction

This checklist is for senior managers who have the task of establishing a sense of mission within their organisation. This may include implementing a cultural change and writing a mission statement.

In this checklist a corporate mission or vision is taken to mean a description of the road ahead. It describes the purpose of the organisation, identifies how an organisation defines success, outlines the strategy that will be followed to achieve success and incorporates the shared values and behaviour that the organisation expects from employees.

The corporate mission may be known as a corporate philosophy, a credo or a set of values. Whatever it is called, it should combine the inspiration of where we are going with the realities of where are we now and how are we going to get there. The process of developing a corporate sense of mission incorporates such techniques as strategic planning, developing a corporate culture, internal communication and empowerment. It involves writing a mission statement and it is from this that appropriate goals and targets can be set for individual business units and departments. Strategic planning and objective-setting are the subject of separate checklists.

A mission statement does not create a sense of mission. Employees must feel that they are part of the process and they will respond to a mission statement only if they can understand it, relate to it and own it. Developing a sense of mission is usually more successful if it is viewed as a long term, evolutionary process. However, organisations have developed a mission statement which they have then used to provide the focus to the business. This approach is usually successful only if there has been close consultation with managers as the mission is developed.

A well-produced mission:

* outlines clearly the way ahead for the organisation

* provides information and inspiration to employees

* identifies the business in which the organisation will be in the future

* provides a definition of success

* provides a living statement which can be translated into goals and objectives at each level of the organisation.

National Occupational Standards for Management and Leadership

This checklist has relevance for the following standard: B: Providing direction, unit 9

Definition

The Ultimate Business Encyclopaedia (Bloomsbury, 2002) describes a mission statement as a "short, memorable statement clarifying the reasons for the existence of an organisation, expressing what its purpose is". It defines vision as a "statement giving a broad, aspirational image of the future that an organisation is aiming to achieve".

There is, however, a great deal of contradiction both in the literature and in corporate usage over the differences and similarities of vision and mission. It probably doesn't matter what you call it, or whether you treat them separately or as one and the same as long as staff, stakeholders and customers are clear on what it means to them. It is the process that is important and this is what this checklist focuses upon.

Action checklist

The process of establishing a mission is a task for the senior management team. It involves a detailed analysis of the strategy and future of the company. Conducting a SWOT analysis of your organisation can be helpful in identifying strengths and opportunities.

1. Create a project team

This may be the complete senior management team in a small organisation, or a working group of a larger management team. The appointment of an external facilitator can assist in the process of reaching a consensus.

2. Gather information

The project team should meet with the all the senior managers and research internal and external information on the current ethos and values of the organisation. This will include image (both internal and external) and stratrgy.

Interviews with the senior management should seek to identify areas of agreement and conflicts in attitudes, opinions and strategic thinking.

Internal views of the organisation should be obtained from a number of influential managers. External opinion can be researched from press files, analysts reports and from the views of customers and suppliers. Compare the two views. Use the acquired information to build a broad picture of the organisation.

The project team should collate this information and prepare a detailed report to present to the senior management team.

3. Build consensus

The senior management team should work to reach a consensus of a clear mission for the organisation. This is where an external facilitator can play an important role. It may help to define direction--a clear declaration of where the management team wants to take the organisation. It constitutes a clear message of the organisation's intentions to all stakeholders.

Barriers which may pose obstacles to the adopted direction should be explored and appropriate steps and responsibilities should be agreed for dealing with those barriers. This is where the team develops an ownership of the mission and takes responsibility for it. Such obstacles may be perceived at the level of resources: they are possibly at the level of core competencies, and appropriate staff development may be needed to overcome them.

4. Draft a mission statement

The mission statement should be written by the senior management team as it needs to draw upon the consensus reached on the future of the organisation. The mission statement acts as the guide to the organisation-wide evolution of the corporate sense of mission.

A good mission statement provides:

* a description of the business

* the mission of the organisation

* the broad strategies to be pursued to fulfil the mission

* a summary statement of the values to which the organisation adheres.

They often contain broad statements of aiming to be the best, identify the importance of people, quality and service and emphasise the role of innovation, communication and growth.

Mission statements should be assessed with regard to clarity, succinctness, memorability, believability and a motivational element, and should be revised accordingly. The mission statement should be worded in such a way that all employees can relate to it.

5. Develop action plans and set objectives

Action plans should aim to build on the consensus and commitment developed within the senior management team and to spread it throughout the organisation. Set objectives by asking what needs to be done to realise the mission. Actions should be planned to overcome the major barriers to achieving the vision. This is where the mission process meets with the strategic planning process. Consideration should be given to the way in which the mission is going to be communicated throughout the organisation.

6. Communicate the mission throughout the organisation

The communication process could benefit from workshops, internal newsletters or group meetings. It is important to develop the sense of ownership of the mission throughout the organisation. It is the employees who bring the mission to life.

7. Monitor and review

The development of a sense of mission should be viewed as a long-term process. Introduce mechanisms that allow the views of all stakeholders to be continually monitored. This should give an indication of the spread of the sense of mission, the relevance and understanding of the mission statement, and the degree to which corporate values have cascaded throughout the organisation. Make use of regular group meetings to enhance the philosophy.

How not to produce a corporate mission statement

Don't:

* See this as a quick process

* move without a consensus among the senior team

* see this as a one-off process

* think it will never happen to you

* forget to test your plan

* let your plan get out of date

* become complacent

* assume insurance will cover everything.

Additional resources

Books

The committed enterprise: how to make vision and values work, Hugh Davidson

Oxford: Butterworth Heinemann, 2002

Make your mission statement work: how to identify and promote the values of your organisation, Marianne Talbot

Oxford: How To Books, 2000

Success in sight: visioning, Andrew P Kakabadse, Frederic Nortier and Nello-Bernard Abramovici

London: International Thomson Business Press, 1998

Journal articles

Using a vision, Sarah Cook, Steve Macaulay and Hilary Coldicott Training Journal, Apr 2006, pp26-29

Mission statement quality and financial performance, Barbara Bartkus, Myron Glassman and Bruce McAfee European Management Journal, Feb vol 24 no 1, 2006, pp86-94

A comparison of the quality of European Japanese and US mission statements a content analysis, Barbara Bartkus, Myron Glassman and Bruce McAfee European Management Journal, Aug vol 22 no 4, 2004, pp393-401

Lofty missions down to earth plans, V Kasturi Rangan Harvard Business Review, Mar vol 82 no 3, 2004, pp112-119

Its time to redraft your mission statement, Forest R David and Fred R David Journal of Business Strategy, Jan/Feb vol 24 no 1, 2003, pp11-14

Mission statements--is it time to shelve them?, Jatinder Sidhu European Management Journal, Aug vol 21 no 4 2003, pp439-446

Related checklists

Setting objectives (052) Strategic planning (064)
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Title Annotation:Checklist 067
Publication:Chartered Management Institute: Checklists: Marketing Strategy
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jun 1, 2006
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