Monday, June 16, 2003

Why do businesses need a mission statement?

The Business Times p.B5
Monday, June 16, 2003

By Moje Ramos-Aquino
Why do businesses need a mission statement?

“Companies fail to create the future not because they fail to predict it, but because they fail to imagine it,” writes Gary Hamel in his book, Leading the Revolution. “Without a widespread capacity to imagine and design radical new business concepts, a company will be unable to escape decaying strategies … When was the last time you hung on to a good option when you had a much better option in view?”

As we continue our discussion on entrepreneurship and imagine the future of our business, we shall also take into the picture the past and the now. Let us remember what Louis Mandylor (Nick Portokalos) told Nia Vardalos (Toula Porto­kalos) in the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding, “Don’t let your past dictate who you are, but make it a part of who you will be.

So today, you shall be thinking and imagineering (imaging and engineering according to Gary Hamel) your mission, your business concept. As Prof. Rubeus Hagrid told Harry Potter: “It is not our abilities that make who we are. It is our choices.”

Your mission statement defines the purpose of your business, the very reason why you chose that business. It is all about choices you have made in the past, in the now and what might be in the future. In Filipino, the mission statement answers the question: Anong gusto mong gawin? Your vision statement answers the question: “Anong gusto mong maging?”

Your mission is not something that you will only decide now. In fact, you have long decided on that the moment you contemplated your business endeavor. But the reason we have this exercise is for you to stretch your mission, to imagine its possibilities and to put your thoughts in concrete terms.

You need to be courageous to write a real mission statement. As Peter Druc­ker once said, “There is no ‘perfect’ strategic decision. One always has to balance conflicting objectives, conflicting opinions, and conflicting priorities. The best strategic decision is only an approximation and a risk.”

I saw this in my folder of notes: A mission statement is the description of the basic purpose of the organization. It is a simple, compelling statement of the organization’s must-do activities. It states the organization’s customers, the value premises it offers those customers and any special means it will use to create value for the customers in order to win and keep their business.

Here are some examples of mission statements:

Chamber of Furniture Industries of the Philippines: To lobby for responsive political and social issues and help move the furniture industry towards sustained growth and global competitiveness.

Asian Eye Institute: To deliver to all our patients the highest quality eye care on a par with the best in the world. To advance the science and practice of ophthalmology in the Philippines and Asia. To make high quality eye care available and accessible to the Filipino people.

Take note that these mission statements answered the basic questions:

• What are our products and services?
• Who are our publics (customers, employees, stockholders and others)?
• Why do we exist?

From The Mission Statement Book of Jeffrey Abrahams, here are some more examples:

Coca Cola: We exist to create value for our share owners on a long-term basis. We refresh the world. We do this by developing superior beverage products that create value for our company, our bottling partners and our customers.

Globe Telecom Customer Service Mission: In Globe Telecom, the Customer is our priority. We aim to deliver world-class customer service through people (highly motivated, values-driven, well-trained, empowered and customer-focused professionals), technology and process (continuously design and consistently implement timely and customer-friendly processes). We champion the development of a service culture within the organization. We take pride in being a cohesive team committed to Total Customer Satisfaction.

Abrahams wrote that mission statements have been a part of working life and human history since the beginning of time. He said that perhaps the very first mission statement is recorded in Genesis, with the command “Be fruitful, and multiply.” Marc Anthony proclaims his mission when he begins to eulogies Julius Caesar: “Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears. I came to bury Caesar, not to praise him.”

Abrahams quotes Gene Roddenberry’s mission statement for Star Trek: Space, the final frontier, “These are the voyages of the Starship Enterprise. Its five-year mission: To explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before.”

Whether as individuals or organizations, we all need a mission statement. A company, big or small, because of the diversity of interests and levels of competence of the people in it, needs a mission statement as a source of direction and identity. It gives a company a sense of purpose, what it stands for and where it is headed. As Abrahams said, a mission, simply by its very existence, provides a foundation on which the company can build its future.

Why do you need a mission statement for your business? It is a great team builder. It also helps you in your managing, leading and integrating the different functions, parts, objectives and goals of your organization.

Some issues in stating your mission are:

Length: One sentence? Two sentences? One page? Long enough to state your reason for being in terms easily understood by your target publics.

Number: You can have more than one mission statement. One for the whole company. One for every functional area or parts of your business. One for every geographical location. One for every cubicle.

Tone: Conversational? Formal? Serious? Depends on your target publics. Choice of words must be deliberate, specific and descriptive. The language and tone should be that which would evoke the needed emotional responses from your target audience.

In sum, your vision should be inspiring and your mission should be moving.

World Peace. Think global. Buy local.

(Ms. Moje Ramos-Aquino is president of Paradigms & Paradoxes Corp and helps companies develop shared vision and matched missions. She awaits your feedback at

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