My friend John Haydon’s recent post really has me thinking. The post was titled Why you should delete the mission statement on your website. Please read it (John is SO smart!)
John’s post comes at a good time for me, as we are thinking about our own mission statement for Creating the Future. (Like our name had been for years – the Community-Driven Institute – our current mission statement is a placeholder…)
When I teach the difference between Mission and Vision, I have always shared an easy formula for a mission statement.
“To accomplish our vision, we do _____ for ______ people in the _____ region.”
Lately, though, we are re-thinking that. If in plain English we see a mission as something we set out to accomplish, that is very different than merely a statement of what we do.
A statement of what we do lacks movement, lacks will, lacks force. It assumes that we are providing an ongoing service.
And that’s when it hits me. This is another remnant from the business world!
The business world has given us the definition of Vision Statement as “the picture of the future of the organization.” That is fine if you are a business with the goal of self-perpetuation, but not so much if your reason for being is to create a better community. So for years, we have insisted that the vision for a Community Benefit Organization is for the future of the community, not the organization.
Now it is occurring to me that using the Mission Statement as a statement of what we do to get closer to the vision is simply another piece of that. If your organization’s vision is self-perpetuation, then yes, the mission is to keep doing that.
But that is not the definition of an organization that is reaching its potential to change conditions and create the future of our communities. It is the definition of a service provider!
To simultaneously provide service AND change conditions in our communities, an organization’s mission must be about accomplishing something! We must be able to use the word the way plain English suggests. Not “What will you do?” but What will you accomplish? For whom? What will you be changing? What will be better? And yes, by when?
Mission is about what you will accomplish for your community in the short term!
For Creating the Future, we are focusing on “Our mission for the next 5-10 years.” That mission is to have the way this sector does its work ALL be aligned behind improving community conditions. Governance, planning, program development, funding – we intend to see it all change, to align behind our potential to change the world. And we intend to accomplish that in 5 years.
And so our mission is not to DO the work of programs, but to actually accomplish some visible change! To see things be different in this sector. Dramatically different. In 5-10 years. From there, we will develop programs that will accomplish that mission.
So maybe, John, we need a fourth statement.
• Vision Statement – What will the community be like when you are 100% successful?
• Mission Statement – What community conditions will you change in the short term, to take steps towards making that vision a reality?
• Values Statement – What beliefs and assumptions will guide your work? How will your decisions and actions model your vision and values to the others?
• Program Statement – What services are you providing / actions are you taking to accomplish that short-term mission?
And now I’m getting excited at what this simple change of language makes possible. What would change in your organization if your mission were about the community changes you intended to see become reality in 5 years?
I am giggling at the possibilities!!!