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April 23, 2017

Putting an End to “Mission Mediocrity”

Alan Ibbotson- Changeologist. Founder of The Trampoline Group. Executive Coach. Keynote Speaker on Change, Leadership & EI

One of our most popular workshops at Trampoline is North Star, which is actually more of a working session to create that elusive, brilliant mission statement.

This will sound like an oxymoron to most people – the words “brilliant” and “mission statement” are rarely heard in the same sentence. It’s easy to see why when most of them read something like this:

“Our mission is to be spectacularly average, underwhelming our constituents with all the things they can get from our competitors. We will be better at being average than anyone else and will work hard to retain our status as the cream of the crap. With integrity. “

I’m only half joking. They’re usually written by a committee of well intentioned, ill-advised, cross-functional Voluntold’s who one day find themselves summoned into a windowless conference room and instructed not to leave until the job is done. Invariably, that shows in the end result.

In his brilliant video for Fast Company, “How To Write A Mission Statement That Doesn’t Suck”  the author of “Made to Stick” Dan Heath nails it. Little parts of our soul die when we read these horrible-no-good-very-bad missions.

It’s easy to dismiss the need for something when you hold the belief that it could only ever be terrible. There’s a reason that the hilarioiusly addictive mission generator exists.

But consider the benefits of a brilliant mission – it’s a universal rallying cry for your employees, a filter for strategic decision making, a critical differentiation tool and a directional North Star to help guide you when you’re stuck.

Thankfully, there are some great ones around – check out some of these from the likes of Google, Nike, Nordstrom, Virgin Atlantic, and Toyota. And we are proud of some of the kick-ass statements that we’ve helped our clients create.

Here are the criteria we use to banish mediocrity and ensure a compelling, inspirational and memorable mission statement that will stand the test of time:

  • It has to answer the question WHY does your company exist? This is a statement of Purpose above all else.
  • It’s not trying to be all things to all people. For example, at Trampoline our mission is to build kick-ass leaders, teams and culture in creatively driven organizations. We are not for everyone. Sorry, Bank of Anywhere but we’re not the company for you.
  • It has to feel plausible, realistic. Don’t talk about saving lives and making the world a safer place if you’re an ice cream company. Go for the joy. Embrace what makes you great and be ambitious, but don’t overshoot the runway.
  • No admission tickets : the qualities that your constituents have a right to expect from you because they are the price of entry. Quality? Integrity? As opposed to what, exactly? *eyeroll*. Jump higher!
  • Simplicity. No word salads. One big idea please. If you exist for multiple reasons, find the common ground, take it up a few thousand feet and make it palpable.
  • Brevity. It has to fit on a t-shirt. No excuses. Read that one again.
  • Recall factor. See brevity, above – every employee should be able to recite it, on demand. So no fancy words like portmanteau, even though that word totally rocks.

It’s hard to do this, which is why it’s a workshop. But if you want to have a go, use this checklist. When you reach it you’ll know – you’ll get really, REALLY excited.