Companies are turning to mission statements to help steer operations

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Mission statements are seen as stars when it comes to enhancing corporate reputation.

Companies are increasingly putting their purpose on paper through mission statements. The practice is not new, but more companies appear to be developing their first ones and fine-tuning those they have.

A mission statement is a clear, concise representation of an organization’s purpose and the way it approaches what it does every day, noted Michael Connors, CEO of ISG, a technology research and advisory firm.

“Mission statements are all about focus,” Connors said. “They shouldn’t just be put in an employee manual or framed on a wall and forgotten. A mission statement should guide every action we take, and serve as a reminder of what we’re trying to accomplish together as a team and, equally important, how.”

ISG’s mission statement is: “Operational Excellence is our Business.”

“It serves as a guidepost for ISG,” Connors said.

It is a road map to how the company behaves with clients and colleagues every day, he said.

Some companies put significant work into developing them. “Many companies assign this project to a single person or a small team in marketing, HR or the C-Suite, but we thought it was important to capture the feedback, experiences and ideas from the ground up when we created our company’s vision statement,” said Gene Austin, CEO of Bazaarvoice, a ratings and reviews software provider.

Bazaarvoice held three focus groups made up of more than 40 employees representing different departments and multiple global offices to solicit their thoughts and feedback. After collecting and sorting through their feedback, several common themes emerged: trust, authenticity, client obsession, connection, and giving consumers a voice in the marketplace. That’s how the company arrived at: “Creating the World’s Smartest Network of Consumers, Brands, and Retailers.”

After finalizing the mission statement, it was rolled out to employees around the world. T-shirts were printed for staff and the statement is displayed at corporate headquarters.

At software company Planview, staff was asked what was important to them. “Mission statements rarely work if they are a top-down initiative; the mission statement needs to be built hand-in-hand with every employee,” said Greg Gilmore, CEO at Planview.

The result was “Innovate with Integrity.”

“Our mission statement centers employees on what’s important in the company and in the marketplace,” Gilmore said.

All employees receive a copy of it and through an “Ambassador Program,” it is shared by staff.

Has it directly let to more business? Gilmore couldn’t point to any instances, but he did say, “It manifests itself. Customers see the culture of Planview.”

While employees are often the focal point in the mission statement’s language, the saying is meant as a business builder. “A good mission statement should be focused on the customer, because ultimately succeeding with customers is what makes a company grow strong and healthy,” said Mark Hennings, CEO of Simple Booth. “Over time, following your mission statement can give your company an edge over the competition because everyone is working together toward a common goal. If you know why you're doing something, you can do a lot better job at it."

Mission statements can also inspire talent to join the company, one CEO said.

A mission statement “is the foundation of an organization,” said Andre Lavoie, CEO of ClearCompany, “It’s the set of values, beliefs, and visions that unites the team. It’s what people initially connect with about a company.”

If the mission statement “is clear and sincere, it will attract people who align with the company’s values,” Lavoie said. “Talent who believe in your mission statement will want to be a part of the work the organization does. This makes it easier to find A players for your team.”