Mission: To strengthen and inspire leaders of the social sector and their partners in business and government.
Drucker Self-Assessment Tool: Content
How to Develop a Mission Statement
Changing the mission -- or creating an organization's first mission statement -- is a process of gathering ideas and suggestions for the mission and honing them into a short, sharply focused phrase that meets specific criteria. Peter Drucker says the mission should "fit on a T-shirt," yet a mission statement is not a slogan. It is a precise statement of purpose. Words should be chosen for their meaning rather than beauty, for clarity over cleverness. The best mission statements are plain speech with no technical jargon and no adornments. Like the mission statement of the International Red Cross -- "To serve the most vulnerable" -- they come right out and say something. In their brevity and simplicity is power.The work plan to develop a mission statement calls for a writing group to develop a draft statement and recommend it for the board chairman's endorsement, who then proposes the mission statement for approval by the board. Some groups are able to develop a revised mission very quickly, while others conduct the work over a period of weeks or even months. If the mission is being revisited outside a full self-assessment process, the writing group must, at bare minimum, be able to identify the organization or initiative's primary customer and what the goals and results should be. If understanding or agreement is insufficient on these key points, deeper involvement in the self-assessment process is necessary before an effective mission statement can be developed. If the mission is being revisited within a full self-assessment process, Steps 2 to 8 in the following plan may be condensed.
Work plan for developing a mission statement
Step 1: Establish a mission-writing groupThe task of the mission-writing group is to agree on a draft mission statement to be presented to the governance body for approval. The Assessment Team doubles as the writing group, or a special team may be convened. Members should include the chief executive, the board chairman or another representative of the board, a writer, and a manageable number of additional members who represent different parts of the organization and who are keen to take on the task. Having a facilitator is helpful. It can be particularly beneficial if this individual has facilitated other parts of the organization's self-assessment process.
Step 2: Adopt criteria for an effective mission statement; gather ideas and suggestions for first draftsThe "too many cooks spoil the broth" syndrome that besets so many writing groups is substantially avoided by agreeing on a recipe in advance. Prior to a first meeting, writing group members should review Peter Drucker's discussion on mission in the Participant Workbook and Worksheet 4, which contain criteria for an effective mission statement. At a first meeting, the writing group should post these criteria on a flip chart or chalkboard, review them, consider amendments, and adopt the criteria they will use to judge the effectiveness of the mission they are about to develop. The suggested criteria for an effective mission statement are that it:
Step 3: Develop one or more draft statements.Following the meeting, the writer-either alone or with a small subgroup-develops drafts of at least two possible new mission statements that are distributed before the next meeting.
Step 4: Judge initial drafts against criteria and suggest revisions or new optionsThe second meeting of the writing group should begin with a discussion of the protocols (outlined next) that will be followed to judge the drafts and make suggestions. People should also be encouraged to "listen between the lines." This step in the process is highly structured, but on more than one occasion, someone in a group offers a comment or phrase that turns out to be the perfect nugget on which to build the new mission statement. If the group has a "Eureka! moment," go with it. To judge drafts and make suggestions:
Step 5: Develop second draftsFollowing the meeting, the writer or small subgroup develops a second draft of one or more possible new mission statements.
Step 6: Gain feedback from outside the writing groupThis step puts the emerging statement or draft(s) to the test for their resonance with other members of the organization. The board chairman and chief executive decide who outside the writing group will be asked to give feedback. In some settings, organizationwide input is invited. In others, a smaller group of respondents is selected. There may also be value in gaining feedback from a few key informants outside the organization. The chief executive oversees the process of gaining feedback. If the board chairman is not already a member of the writing group, his or her feedback at this point is essential. Each individual or group being contacted for their response is:
Step 7: Summarize feedback and distribute second drafts and summary to writing group
Step 8: Propose a draft mission statement or determine next stepsWith some groups, the process for developing a mission statement flows with ease to a unanimous and enthusiastic conclusion. With most, the process proves demanding but worthwhile when a strong statement emerges. A small number of groups come to feel they have been given the riddle of the Sphinx.
Mission-writing groups may choose to propose more than one statement for the board chairman or full board to consider, may ask for a board discussion to gain input and direction, or may simply go into another round of drafts and keep at it until the issue is resolved. If a group truly gets stuck, it may be helpful to let the task lie for a time and come back to it or take the challenge to a specialist outside the organization and gain a completely fresh perspective. As Peter Drucker reminds us, "What counts is not the beauty of the mission statement. What counts is your performance." It may, in the end, be most preferable to suggest an interim statement and live with it for a time before making a final decision.At a third meeting, the writing group:
Step 9: Gain preliminary endorsement of the proposed mission statementIf the mission is being revisited as part of a comprehensive organizational self-assessment process, preliminary endorsement by the board chairman is necessary before the Assessment Team confirms goals for the plan. The board chairman's preliminary endorsement is always necessary before he or she presents a proposed mission statement to the full board for approval.
Step 10: Present the proposed mission statement for board approvalThe board chairman presents the proposed mission statement as part of the organization's plan or as a separate item of business. The approval of the mission is one of the board's most important strategic planning responsibilities. If the board rejects a proposed mission, consideration of goals is postponed until a mission is approved.