Targeted Organizational Development


Better To Be On a Mission Than To Just Have One

 A mission statement is a short sentence stating the company purpose. In his lecture on Six Disciplines, lecturer Gary Harpst notes that Southwest Airlines mission statement is: “Short, Fun Flights”. Krispy-Cream: “Fresh Donuts Daily”.  An example of one that needed work was a new company that had created an automated sandbag filling machine on a 40’ truck trailer. It was a beautifully designed labor- saving device that would be of great value in times of flooding. Their mission statement was three pages long and covered everything from global weather change to the corporate duty to save volunteer sandbaggers from back injury. When asked what I thought about it I made some comments about the well written thoughts included in the mission statement but noted that what they did not actually have a well defined mission. Their “mission”, as I understood it, was to STOP WATER.

Having a mission statement in most companies is an obligatory “check box task”, which means the task was done but few, in the company, either know nor can repeat. To determine  if this observation is true in your company, simply walk around and ask ten random people if they know the company’s mission statement. More often than not, they well have a blank look on their face. Part of that “blank look” has to do with the focus of the managers and leaders in the company. They may be focused on efficiency or the bottom line or todays fire fight or other “problems” that are important for the moment. All those problems are important but they are not the real job of the leadership. Their real job is to have a clear mission for the company and to make certain everyone knows it. And, equally important, everyone needs to see, feel and believe that their company doesn’t just have a “mission statement” but is ON a mission.

Being On a mission is about clarity, purpose and passion. It should be coupled with the feeling, “I believe in what we do. I like what I do”. Those thoughts, when voiced, are music to any leader’s ear. The belief that there is purpose in one’s work is the bedrock of that other holy grail in company life, employee motivation. And a clearly demonstrated parallel personal belief from the leader themselves is key to inspiring these feelings in employees. It is found when leaders “walk-the-talk” and make their most important job the one of lighting the way. A mission is more than a couple of well-chosen words. It is the rally point every company needs to have a competitive edge and low turn-over.  

And if all the above is true about one’s place of work, imagine how valuable it could be for one’s personal life as well. Are you on a mission with life and family?


Ellen Colodney