Mission Meaning: Ideal Contents of a Mission Statement

Mission should define the organization line/lines of business, identify it’s products and services, and specify the markets it serves at present and the near future. It should be achievable, in writing, and have a time frame for achievement.

An organization’s mission is formulated in the form of a statement.

It is, therefore, often called a mission statement. A mission is an overall goal of the organization that provides a sense of direction and a guide to decision making for all levels of management.

Mission Meaning and Examples

A mission can also be defined as a broad goal of an organization that justifies an organization’s existence. It is a statement of an organization’s reason to exist. It states what the company is providing to society.

For example, a company may provide a service such as legal services, house cleaning, or software development. Or, it may provide a product such as cosmetics, or toiletry.

An organization’s mission does not indicate the details and measurable targets. It rather contains a statement of attitude, outlook, and orientation. A mission statement reveals who the company is and what it does. It clarifies the nature of existing products, markets, and functions the firm presently provides.

Since a mission is a relatively permanent part of an organization’s identity, it should be broad-based but customer-focused.

The mission is not to make a profit. It is to give the organization its own special identity, business emphasis, and path for development.

It must set a company apart from other similarly situated companies. If profit is made the focus of the mission, it will be impossible to differentiate one company from another.

Ideal Contents of a Mission Statement

There does not exist any hard and fast rule for formulating a mission statement.

An analysis of various mission statements of different companies (especially business-oriented firms) indicates that a mission statement needs to include some common issues, such as:

  • Customer needs (i.e., what is being satisfied)
  • Customer groups (i.e., who is being satisfied)
  • Company’s activities, technologies, and competencies (i.e., how the company goes about creating value to customers and satisfying their needs)

Pearce and David identified eight basic components of a typical corporate mission statement as follows:5

  1. Target customers and markets (e.g., students, engineers, doctors, nurses, patients)
  2. Products or services (e.g., toothpaste, perfume, computer)
  3. Geographical domain (e.g., national level, worldwide)
  4. Technology (e.g., cellular communication technology; information technology)
  5. Concern for survival (e.g., to conduct business prudently to provide profits and growth)
  6. Philosophy (e.g., a spirit of sharing and caring where people give cheerfully of their time, knowledge and experience)
  7. Company’s self-concept (e.g., a diversified, multi-industry company) and
  8. Concern for public image (e.g., to share the world’s obligation for the protection of the environment).

Examples of Mission Statements of Various Organizations

OrganizationMission Statement
GoogleFrom the beginning, our mission has been to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful. Today, people around the world turn to Search to find information, learn about topics of interest, and make important decisions. We consider it a privilege to be able to help. As technology continues to evolve, our commitment will always be the same: helping everyone find the information they need.
MicrosoftTo empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.
Apple ComputerTo bringing the best user experience to its customers through its innovative hardware, software, and services.” And in a manifesto dated 2009 Tim Cook set the vision specified as “We believe that we are on the face of the earth to make great products and that’s not changing
IntelDelight our customers, employees, and shareholders by relentlessly delivering the platform and technology advancements that become essential to the way we work and live.

Can there be a mission for functional departments?

There can be separate mission statements for departments like Marketing, Finance, Human Resources, Research and Development (R & D), etc.

For example, the mission of the Human Resources Department can be “to contribute to organizational success by developing effective leaders, creating high-performance teams, and maximizing the potential of individuals.”

The mission of the marketing department may be ‘providing excellent customer service all the time around the year to exceed the customers’ expectations.’

Why is ‘business definition’ considered essential for a mission statement?

definition of business as suggested by abell

Before a mission statement is prepared, mangers must clearly define what business the company is presently in. This is essential because the mission statement must convey “who we are, what we do, and where we are now.”

The complexity of defining a business has been very articulately presented by Thompson and Strickland:

  1. Is Coca-Cola in the soft-drink business?
  2. Is Coca-Cola in the beverage business?

Taking a soft-drink perspective means that managements’ strategic attention needs to be concentrated on outcompeting Pepsi, 7-up, Dr. Pepper, etc.

On the other hand, taking a beverage perspective means that management also needs to think strategically about positioning Coca­Cola products to compete against fruit juices, iced tea, bottled water, milk, and coffee.

Some companies are found to have provided a broad definition of mission, while some other companies prefer a narrow definition. Broad definition makes a mission statement too abstract to be well-understood. Take this example: “Our Furnishing Company is in the furniture business.’

The company is in fact involved in a wooden furniture business.

If it claims in its mission statement that it is in ‘furniture business’, then it implies that the company is also engaged in wrought-iron furniture, steel furniture, and plastic furniture businesses. If a company states that it is in soft-drink business, not in the beverage business, then it implies that the company follows a narrow definition of business.

In general, three dimensions can be used to define the business of a company. Abell has suggested these dimensions for defining business.

3 dimensions are:

  • Who is being satisfied?
  • What is being satisfied?
  • How are customers’ needs being satisfied?

These three dimensions indicate that the business definition needs to incorporate the customer groups targeted by the company, the needs of the customers that the company wants to satisfy, and the skills or competencies that the company has to use for satisfying the needs of targeted customer groups.

Can the mission be changed or revised?

In this world of continuous changes in the environment, it is common to periodically redefine the mission of companies.

Sometimes, the original mission formulated long ago does not work due to some reasons – it may become unacceptable to the stakeholders.

In that case, the mission should be modified or altogether created anew.

Communicating the Vision and Mission

To enlist employee commitment, the vision needs to be communicated to all employees. People need to believe that the company’s management knows where it is trying to take the company.

Management should present the vision and mission in language that creates a vivid image in the employee’s heads and provokes emotion.

For example, building a mosque or church is more inspiring than ‘laying the foundation stone.’ The language of vision and mission should be so succinct and specific that it can pin down the organization’s real business arena.

Effective mission statements are those which can inspire all stakeholders. An inspiring and challenging mission statement can serve as a powerful motivational tool. A company should communicate their mission in words that convey a sense of an organization’s purpose.

A well-communicated mission statement pays off in several ways;

  1. it motivates all key stakeholders to develop firm commitment in themselves for the realization of the organization’s purpose;
  2. it facilitates focused decision making;
  3. it helps departmental managers develop missions for departments, set departmental objectives and formulate departmental strategies; and
  4. it creates a sense of pride in the employees.

Final Words – Integration of Vision and Mission: To Be or Not to Be?

Because of the closeness of the essence of both vision and mission, some people raise the question: should vision and mission be integrated and formulated together without any separation?

The question is simple but the answer is difficult.

Generally, we can say that some organizations are found to have integrated these two into one. They have formulated vision and mission together with no demarcation line between the two.

Hill and Jones did not make any distinction between vision and mission.

They are in favor of using these two terms interchangeably.