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Business Observer Friday, Apr. 30, 2004 14 years ago

Remember the Mission Statement

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Defining the company's mission is like taking a trip in a time machine to some point in the future.Stephen Garber provides executive coaching in the Sarasota area

Remember the Mission Statement

Defining the company's mission is like taking a trip in a time machine to some point in the future.

Occasionally I'm asked to comment on an individual's or organization's mission statement. Rather than comment directly, I usually offer the following explanation, so that the questioners can arrive at their own conclusion. Feel free to do the same with your mission statement.

A mission statement should be a broad statement of what an organization or individual wants to achieve in a given time frame. Defining the company's mission is like taking a trip in a time machine to some point in the future. Get out of the time machine and look around: what do you see? What does the company look like? Who are the customers? What products are being sold? How are you different from the competition? Who is the competition? What are your financial results?

What is your mission? A mission statement meets the following criteria: 1) It defines the boundaries of the business. 2) It identifies the customer population to be served. 3) It states what is to be achieved. 4) It says how achievement will be measured. 5) It defines the rewards to be realized.

The time frame used in the mission will be dependent upon the specific company, what it hopes to achieve and overall market conditions. Care must be taken that the period of time is not too short, nor too long. Projecting out five years appears for many to be the norm, but considering the rate of change we are experiencing in the world today, it may be too long. Ideally, two to three years should be used, but more frequency may also be necessary.

Missions will change with time. As new opportunities present themselves, you will find that you need to redefine your mission. A mission should not be confused with the values or vision statements you should have previously prepared during the first phase of your planning process. A mission provides direction to all of your people so that they know where the organization is going and what it is trying to achieve. Your values and vision statements should define the behavior you will exhibit in the pursuit of your mission.

One effective way of coming to grips with your mission and what must be done to insure that it becomes reality is to define critical success factors, or CSFs. Critical success factors are those things that must happen or you must make happen in order for your mission to be realized. CSFs will address building on the strengths that your organization has as well as overcoming the limitations that it is experiencing.

Whatever CSFs you determine, they need to be specific to your business and the customer segments you are focusing on. Ideally, a company should have no more than eight to 10 critical success factors. Developing more than this often times leads to deploying resources which focus on the trivial many rather than the critical few. Critical success factors must also pass the necessary and sufficient rule. Is each CSF necessary for the mission to be achieved? Are all of the CSFs sufficient for the mission to be achieved?

While critical success factors tend to be directional in nature, business planning goals are specific and dictate the goal directed actions that must be taken for the critical success factors to become reality.

Stephen Garber, who lives and works in the Sarasota area, provides executive coaching for people who need to select, keep and/or develop performance champions. Questions and comments are always welcome at [email protected].

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