Facilitating a mission statement
Frank A. Prince, Involvement Systems, Inc.

Mission statements for organizations have become more and more popular in the past five to ten years. Mission statements have moved from a business fad to a sustained trend in the 90's. They are now a standard form of management by objective and can help executive and employees reach company goals. At best, such statements can get people charged up about their work. At worst, they are badly written up or poorly communicated to others. A mission statement has commitment from those involved in the development. Many organizations create a mission statement for the company which is passed down through the organization. It can be more effective to have each division, plant, team, or work group develop their own mission based on the company's overriding mission. They can tailor it themselves and also take into account where the organization believes it is going based on the organization's mission. In any case, many facilitators are being asked to facilitate the development of mission statements for groups. The following is a process that can be very effective in helping to create that mission.

Step 1: Mission statement ice breaker -- have each individual tear a blank sheet of paper out of a notepad (8 1/2 x 11). Have them get in pairs and have one partner hold the sheet up while the other partner places their palm in the center of the paper and tried to press through and break through the paper (with a lot of difficulty and struggling, eventually they will be able to push through and break the paper with their hand). Next, have the other partner hold their sheet of paper up and instead of using their palm, have the individual use the point of their finger to push through the paper (papers will be breaking quickly and easily on this round). Now debrief the activity. Talk about the parallels of creating a mission statement and focusing the organization toward its goal.

Step 2: Have each individual take a blank sheet of paper and write down what they think the mission statement is for their organization. You may provide them with some of the following guidelines.

    1. The mission is the organization's reason for being.
    2. The mission is different than goals or objectives.
    3. A mission is stated as concisely and clearly as possible.
    4. The mission should contain a few of the major priorities of the organization.
    5. The mission statement should balance both the head and the heart.

Step 3: Have the individuals pair up and share their mission statement (around five minutes). Next, while paired up and using their own mission statements, have the two individuals create a mission statement that they both can agree on.

Step 4: Have each pair join up with another pair so that the groups are in quads and have this group of four share their mission statements and then create one mission statement that all four of them can buy into (the groups will begin to "wordsmith" and make changes that fit with all members of the group).

Step 5: Once again, have the groups of four pair up with another group of four and share their mission statement. Create another mission statement that all eight can agree upon.

Step 6: Continue this process until you are down to two groups which combine and create one mission statements for the entire group.

Step 7: Have the group read the mission statement aloud in unison (a cheer and round of applause should be in order after the reading).

Step 8: Have everyone write down the new mission statement for the group in their day planners, address books or something that they carry with them wherever they go (they can even put it on a small sheet of paper and place it in their wallets).

Companies often put their mission or vision in a book on a shelf after they have gone through the trouble of hammering it out. That turns the effort into a drill rather than a tool. Just as with other plans, the mission statement should change over time. It is not something you carve in stone. It will evolve. The follow-up to this session is to look for ways to communicate your mission to others inside the organization so that they understand what you are about. Also, future strategic decisions should be checked against the mission to be sure they are in alignment.

From The Facilitator's client files: Distributing posters for display on office walls, laminating wallet-sized cards or prominently displaying the vision/mission in the main lobby are some ways to communicate this important information throughout the enterprise.

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