So what makes a good mission statement?
Ultimately, your mission is the big scary goal you’d like your company to achieve. It’s everything that you are working towards as a unit and should be designed as such. Every great mission statement possesses four definitive qualities (just remember MAIL):
Measurable. You should know when you have completed your mission. This line in the sand could be a combination of factors and measures included directly in the statement, or alternatively imbued via KPIs or OKRs.
Ambitious. Your mission statement shouldn’t be soft touch. The best mission statements should really scare the hell out of you they’re that bold. It should feel ever so slightly unattainable.
Inspiring. The language used to communicate your mission matters. It should stir the soul and make your team believe that coming in to work every day is worthwhile.
Long term. Your mission is not a project. It is the very first north star for your company. Nothing valuable was ever built overnight, so you should consider your mission statement a long term goal - a 5-10 year timeframe being the best.
Can you offer an example?
Here is our mission statement at Forward Partners:
“To build London’s leading and most admired early stage venture firm”
Sure this looks ambitious, certainly inspiring to some, but what about measurable and long term? Well, it’s the leading and most admired component here that we further imbue with the meaning we desire and in turn how we measure it.
For Forward, we believe that we will lead and be most admired by effectively scaling our Applied VC model (#scale), whilst in parallel delivering a world class support experience for founders (#service). We measure this by a) the overall valuation of Forward Partners (a $number that combines our NAV with the value within FP itself) and b) an average NPS score with our portfolio founders.
We use this as the foundations of our OKRs structure, ensuring that all of our short and mid-term goals align with these two measures of #scale and #service. Reconnecting everything you do, even quarter by quarter, back to what you want to achieve in the long term is incredibly powerful - and this is where a solid mission statement pays dividends.
Anything to avoid when it comes to mission statements?
You betcha. Some of the biggest mistakes people make include:
Conflating mission with vision or purpose. Mission, vision and purpose are very different things (we’ll be covering vision and purpose in future posts). But at a top level, purpose is your ‘why you exist’ and vision is what the world should look like when you complete your mission. You certainly don’t need all of these statements - but a combination of mission plus either purpose or vision is beneficial, and therefore clear differentiation is key.
A mission that sounds good but is actually useless. A mission that sounds great and is actually useful is the holy grail - and totally attainable. Alas, most people default to one that simply is good on the ears. Although sounding great is important, a mission that is clear and measurable should be your absolute priority.
Not actually using it! The power of a mission statement is consistency and alignment. If you believe it’s just fodder for hiring or fundraising you’re totally missing the point. Once it’s been created, it’s vital to ue it to inform and guide strategy and culture, and hammer it home with your team at every relevant opportunity.