People don't bring their hearts and souls to a business that exists solely to make money for its owners. According to research by Amy Wrzesniewski, as reported in 12: The Elements of Great Managing (Wagner and Harter, Gallup Press, 2006), people want to work for an organization with a higher purpose - a mission that means something to them. And those same people want to understand how what they do individually contributes to the larger organizational mission. Fail to provide that mission, or fail to provide a connection from each employee to the mission, and you will fail to build a great company.
Think I'm wrong?
If you love data, find the research cited on pages 216 and 217 of the Gallup book and see what it tells you. On the other hand, if you love a more anecdotal approach, watch the Discovery Channel's hit show, "Dirty Jobs." On that show, Mike Rowe celebrates the underpaid and under appreciated workers in truly nasty jobs. And finds that most of them love their work. Why? I think it's because they believe they are doing important things for society.
Would your workers feel the same?
A mission has three elements:
What - what we will do for our customers, what customer needs we will meet, what we will do to improve the lives of our customers.
For whom - a clear understanding of who our customers are; a clear statement of our target market.
How - how we will do all of this, and especially how we will do it differently from our competition.
A mission isn't long and complicated - one or two sentences should do it. You want something that is short enough to be memorable and long enough to cover the three elements. The One Page Business Plan Company offers several nice examples on their site. I particularly like the Lenscrafters mission: "Helping people see better one hour at a time." Simple, memorable, and it contains all three elements: what, for whom and how. Cool!
If you simply must mention profits in your mission statement, try something like this mission statement for Novartis: "We want to discover, develop and successfully market innovative products to prevent and cure diseases, to ease suffering and to enhance the quality of life. We also want to provide a shareholder return that reflects outstanding performance and to adequately reward those who invest ideas and work in our company."
Don't, however, have a mission devoted solely to making profits. That won't get employee hearts and minds pumping.
Just writing a nice mission statement, of course, isn't enough. You need to believe in it, and live it, and communicate it to everyone in your organization. When the telephone receptionist knows and understands the mission statement, you are on the right track.
Gallup reports that the immediate supervisor has the most impact on an individual's connection to a corporate mission. If you believe in your company's mission and if you communicate that belief to your team, they are more likely to buy on to it than if you just give it lip service. And once they buy on to the company's mission, organizational success is much more likely.
[Image downloaded from Microsoft's Clip Art site.]