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Crafting A Mission Statement

By Jolene A. Lampton, Ph.D., CPA, CGMA, CFE
August 1, 2021

A mission statement complements organizations’ code of ethics and inspires employees to work toward a common goal.

 

Author John C. Maxwell wrote that organizations can reap the greatest rewards from crafting mission statements that outline ethical principles to guide how employees perform work or services. Individuals should behave based on a code of ethics providing a framework for what they’re supposed to do and how. Maxwell stated that when mission statements’ principles are lived in practice, they represent a great asset helping organizations to cultivate an ethical culture and reach their goals. As we move into the post-pandemic period, it’s incumbent upon leadership, including those in finance and accounting, to evaluate their organization’s mission statement for a potential need to update it in response to changes that have occurred recently.

 

For those organizations without a mission statement, a good place to start the process of crafting one is to enumerate the values that you’d like your personnel to embody and the actions that you’d like them to perform or avoid.

 

CRISIS TO CRISES

 

Working remotely has dispersed workers and made them more reliant on digital technologies, which makes having an inspirational mission statement that employees will rally around even more important. Both this year and last year, organizations have faced significant recruitment challenges and struggled to find and retain the best talent. The rapid shutdown of economies based on face-to-face transactions due to the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted these issues, revealing a stark difference in organizations’ abilities to adapt to their workforce’s needs.

 

Companies faced two immediate barriers: the cost to put the necessary infrastructure and software in place and the implementation time to get employees working efficiently and safely in a remote environment. Some made the transition to remote work seamlessly because they already had the right systems in place, offered flexible work schedules, and encouraged a healthy work-life balance. Some were already organized in teams or used job sharing so there were some skill redundancies in place to ensure the continuation of services.

 

Many professionals recognize that enabling flexible work hours and remote workforces during the pandemic was a success in terms of employee well-being and morale, as well as productivity, but it has increased the pressure on organizations to retain key talent. Employees leave because of problems within the culture of an organization or because they can’t see the bigger picture of why they do what they’re asked to do—the organization’s mission or purpose.

 

During the pandemic, the ability to adjust to change has been especially valued by employers. Just as culture and technology change over time, so does the workplace. Employers need people who can behave ethically while adjusting to evolving situations, changing markets, and shifting customer demands.

 

Adaptability is a skill that’s extremely desirable in the post-pandemic era. Employees’ ability to perform with honesty and integrity while functioning as high-performing employees is key to organizations’ success. Adaptability is also important for mission statements as revisions and changes are made based on changing environments and circumstances to remain relevant and avoid getting stale or outdated.

 

MISSION ACCOMPLISHED

 

Forward-looking mission statements emphasize skills that are needed during disruptive environments, as well as timeless ethical principles. The tone should be more positive, as exemplified by Google’s mission statement that considers every country in the world. Starbucks made changes to its mission statement in 2008 to make it more inspirational and community-focused.

 

Nike’s goal is to include everyone with its consumer-facing mission statement: “Bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete* in the world. *If you have a body, you are an athlete.” Nike’s internal mission statement touts guiding principles to give a sense of direction and purpose to employees, including: “It is our nature to innovate,” “Simplify and go,” “The consumer decides,” “Be a sponge,” “Evolve immediately,” “Do the right thing,” “Master the fundamentals,” and “We are on the offense—always.” TED’s mission statement is laser-focused on helping others share ideas. To deliver a TED talk, one must have an idea worth sharing. TED’s mission statement is simple and focused on actions: delivering and sharing a worthwhile message.

 

Mission statements are a must-have for any growing and evolving organization. Once management determines the company’s main revenue generator and guiding principles, it’s time to articulate or revise the mission statement. As your business evolves, your mission statement should evolve as well.

 

MISSION AND VISION ALIGN

 

Some companies craft a vision statement in addition to or in lieu of a mission statement. What’s the difference between a vision and a mission? The vision statement focuses on what the organization wants to become in the future. The mission statement focuses on what the organization does and is in the present. While companies commonly use mission and vision interchangeably, it’s important for any business to have purpose and meaning as well as aspirational goals.

 

Core values and guiding principles should be listed in the mission statement, or as a supplement to it, to provide employees with a framework for how to conduct themselves professionally and ethically. Core values are organizational pillars, and the mission statement drives the company and provides a central focus for what employees do to further the business. That and the code of ethics or core values, along with articulating the organization’s goals and what it takes to reach those objectives, shape your company’s culture.

 

Mission statements should answer the following questions: What do we do, and why? Whom do we serve? How do we serve them? The butterfly effect of a solid mission statement confirms the value it brings to the company by motivating personnel to work together to advance toward a common goal in an ethical manner.

 

Jolene A. Lampton, Ph.D., CPA, CGMA, CFE, is a professor of management accounting at Park University and a member of IMA’s Committee on Ethics and Austin Area Chapter. You can reach her at jolene.lampton@park.edu.
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