Mission Statement Definition that Moves People

Mission Statement Definition that Moves People

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Mission Statement Definition that Moves People

Mission statement definition is a critical – and often botched – job in many businesses. One of the reasons it’s so hard is that defining a useful, yet inspiring mission statement requires flying at the right ‘mission altitude.’  Low altitude mission statements tend to focus on customer benefits and be more literal and narrow in scope, while high altitude mission statements are more global, and offer a more sweeping and inspiring vision of why the company exists.

Simply put, customer missions fulfill a promise to a customer, while social missions aim to make the world a better place. The most powerful missions create synergy between customer mission and social mission.

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  1. Magnifique !!

  2. Excellent perspective Gideon Rosenblatt   – ping Doug Breitbart 

  3. Gideon Rosenblatt having read this and your introduction I have to second Ejaz Mir 

  4. The trick on the higher end is to craft a mission statement that doesn’t come off sounding like a lot of meaningless buzz words.

  5. Thanks Ejaz Mir, John Kellden and David Amerland. And yes, Mark Traphagen, there are just so many fuzzy, meaningless one out there. One of the reasons I highlighted Twitter’s and Google’s is because I think they do a pretty nice job. 

    Here’s Facebook’s mission:

    “to give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected. People use Facebook to stay connected with friends and family, to discover what’s going on in the world, and to share and express what matters to them.”

    Not bad, but the funny thing is that over the last several years, I’ve watched their mission statements morph and become warmer and warmer. I think the first one started off as something like “to find good looking girls”. 😉

  6. Gideon Rosenblatt both of the statements are wrapped around basic requirements of mankind, the current one is just formulated much broader, because it’s less specific – even if it has more words than the inital one… when breaking it down: “to satisfy customer needs”.

  7. Mine has always been

    Automatic for the People

    With bonus points to all those who recognize this as being a snapshot of a metalogue fast food joint.

    1. You join a conversation

    2. I give you a considered, considerate metalogue-slap-on-the-side-of-the-head

    3. You return to what it was you were doing, with a small change of perspective making all the difference

    Once what I’m offering has grown on you, you sign up for the premium service.  🙂

  8. Martin Zeitler, just to make sure I’m understanding your point, do you mean that the social needs are similar to the customer needs in the sense of the company viewing society as its customer? 

  9. Gideon Rosenblatt in case of facebook, they might view individuals as the product – since they generate revenue from ad impressions.

    means, they cover social needs – while selling on the other end… the mission statement might be formulated that widely, so that more people can identity with it (the initial one merely targeted a male audience). 

  10. So, John Kellden, with Automatic for the People, the customer mission is a metalogue slap-on-the-side-of-the-head, which makes them (me) smarter and changes my perspective, and the social mission is better conversation and a smarter world? I’m half joking, but it would be interesting to try to apply the frame onto what you’re doing. 

  11. Yep. The social mission is when you apply conversations slightly differently to your clients.

    Not necessarily a smarter world as much as a more inclusive, more meaningful.

  12. John Kellden, actually, just even knowing that the bigger focus is on inclusivity and meaning gives me a whole new sense for your work. Really. I’m glad I asked. 

  13. Gideon Rosenblatt – great insights! The mission statement of my company, beCause Global Consulting http://www.because.net is “bringing causes to life”

  14. Thank u for this post Gideon Rosenblatt It allowed me to revise VillageLab mission with new eyes.  We are a social organization that attempts to create partnerhsip with our ‘customers’ by generating wealth together in a symbionomic, mutual relationship.  

    So, if its not a bother for you, or anyone else that might want to offer their perspective, can you give me insights about our mission?

    Our mission is two fold:

    To catalyze and empower the sustainable communities movement by facilitating a multiplicity of monetary and non monetary wealth flows. 

    To provide the sustainable communities movement with a systematic, centrally coordinated, yet grassroots-distributed research & development program for the demonstration of leading practices in all aspects of sustainable and regenerative human systems design.

    After reading your post I think we might benefit from changing the second mission to:

    To provide the world with a systematic, centrally coordinated, yet grassroots-distributed research & development program for the demonstration of leading practices in all aspects of sustainable and regenerative human systems design.

    As it is something we are partnering with communities around the world to be able to do. To create a framework to share this practices in and for the world. 

    Any thoughts are highly appreciated. 

  15. Ferananda Ibarra mission statements are always a bit political language language, where terms have different meaning, for example: “sustainable” doesn’t mean “ecologically sustainable”  rather “industrial sustainable”… even appears three times (not sure if keyword density is important there, when having more content). “structured” might also sound nicer than systematic. that’s at least what I think at first time reading it.

  16. Hi Ferananda Ibarra. I’m so glad to hear that this post has served as a catalyst of sorts. That’s cool!

    It would take me a bit more understanding to truly do justice to the mission you serve. For instance, I don’t know your funding model, and that would actually affect my answer. Given that, here are some initial thoughts: 

    The “customers” in your mission are the leaders of sustainable communities – the people doing the catalyzing and building on the ground. These are the people for whom you provide the community of practice (R&D, best practices, etc.). The social aspect of the mission is the people who are affected by their use of your services. When your “customers” succeed, the people in these local communities benefit from all of the wonderful things that come from sustainable communities, and you can paint that out in inspiring language, I’m sure. 

    That’s just one take, of course. You know what? If it’s helpful, I’d be happy to have a quick Hangout or Skype brainstorm with you.  I spent some time doing this kind of work for my organization a few years back. Very tough, but ultimately very, very rewarding. 

  17. Very nice, Nadine Hack. It’s a great name, by the way. 

  18. I think you’ve crafted a well written and thoughtful post. But (pragmatic contrarian that I usually am) I think businesses spend too much time and consulting money on crafting pithy mission statements with lofty words and at best loose ties to reality. I challenge the assertion that company mission statements influence purchase intent to any great degree. Some may assist employee alignment, but most end up as dusty placards in the reception lounge and dog eared wallet cards in people’s wallets, and not much more.

    Keep it simple. Keep it real. Keep it relevant. It’s ok if your “higher purpose” is “We make people’s favorite shoes”.

    As always, above is purely IMHO.

  19. Gideon Rosenblatt thank you!  I accept the gift with a big smile 😀 … i am traveling for 10 days. Can I contact you after that and we create a meeting? Meanwhile I will think about your original comments. 

  20. Thank you for your comments Martin Zeitler actually sustainability is not exactly what we are serving but Regeneration.  Yet, we think not a lot of communities are either understanding what it means or doing it.  We see sustainability as a first step, thrivability as second and Regenerativity as the most inclusive.  Here is a post about it:


    About the word density…I don’t know how important it is or what impact (positive or negative does it have). How was it for you? 

  21. Thanks, Gideon Rosenblatt! If you have time & interest check the website; we do what I think is wonderful work.

  22. Couldn’t agree more Jeffrey J Davis  – a mission statement, once it is embraced, embodied and lived by its stakeholders, is the only branding and marketing a business needs, even more so in the age of networks.

    Oh, and another thing, the job number one of the client, is to disagree with the mission statement, until it becomes real. Then, a business relationship forms. A simple scaffolding for this to happen, is to underpromise and overdeliver. How to do that, cost-effectively and in a way that scales, is the core why of business models. Or, rather, in this day and age of constant change, business (re)modelling.

  23. Consistent with the “think it, say it, do it” school of How to Create Something, the mission statement, as the middle publishing step, broadcasting to a larger world than the four corners of the author’s head, is a really really important piece of the puzzle.

    To the extent we get exactly and literally what we ask for, those words really really matter, especially when a whole enterprise endeavor is being condensed into a couple for relatively clear, clean simple declarative sentences.

    So, Jeffrey J Davis I have to acknowledge the truth of your observation regarding what often happens to Mission Statements; but that is not because the Mission Statement loses its power or meaning or ability to define and motivate and drive a culture and shared collective vision and dream. It is because the organization itself is out of alignment or integrity.

    I use alignment not in a judgement, right or wrong context; but rather, in the context of the thought, word, action paradigm. If the thought, words and actions are not 100% in alignment as in identical, than the result is going to be off, usually in an adverse way relative to effectiveness and achievement.

    The organization, and usually, the top person or founder who authored the Mission Statement has to walk the walk, talk the talk, and infuse and promote and reinforce and remind and imprint every individual therein with that same mission, and conform the actions and operations and organization in service to its manifestation and fulfillment.

    If and when they do that, the company is its mission and vice versa. You certainly see that with mission-defined companies and their results, like Apple.

    In service to getting exactly what you ask for, Ferananda Ibarra, I think you touch on it in your Mission Statement, but in a way that potentially gets lost in the layers of story that Gideon Rosenblatt alluded to above.

    I also spend much of time helping folks distill the essence of their story down to its most simple and basic expression. My benchmark and reference, although rarely expressed due to judgements that it can trigger, is that one is looking for cartoon-like reduction and simplicity, sufficient to enable immediate and intuitive understanding by a broad scope and range of people on the receiving end, without regard to level of education or sophistication.

    Happy to help if you want more company when the time comes.

    Gideon Rosenblatt A great post and and a great thread. I wonder whether it might not make sense to take the meme of “Mission Statement” completely out of the Tayloresque Industrial framing of customer-oriented; and completely reformulate what it is relative to more of an eco-system paradigm, whereby the entity and its mission are framed in service to and as part of a complex system comprised of constituencies, all of equal weight, importance and significance by virtue of their connection to and role and function in relation to the center?

    By freeing the mission statement of mapping to meeting the needs of a “customer” (whether in service to a larger global good or mission or not), how about it meeting the needs of and being in service to all vested, engaged, involved or affected persons. If you do that, then you are defacto contributing positively to the commons and collective good, assuming you are doing so in a win-win-win way.

    It is . . .

    Mission in Service to the Collective

    cc: John Kellden 


  24. Excellent outline Doug Breitbart 

    synthesis, selfhood, service

    Because it never stops. It seemingly plateaus at times, but that’s just because the Universe is engaged in a Pronoid Conspiracy, and now and zen we need a breather.

  25. Thanks for this Gideon Rosenblatt. It comes at just the right time as my partner and I see ourselves at a crossroads with our business – trying to balance the big, world-changing vision with the reality of our lives and responsibilities (I’ve got an infant and for both Corinna Rake and I, being the mama comes first).

    You’ve helped me focus in on customer success and customer mission and have me thinking about how we can continue to place the buyer at the center of the business even if we’ve got family at the center of our lives. Cheers!

  26. Marisa Goudy – sounds like you’ve got a clearer focus on how to strike a great balance of family & work.

  27. Love your comments Doug Breitbart . Its years since I don’t have clients or customers but partners in creation and play. At VillageLab  we are working with communities of intent for the commons together. Co-creating and generating wealth and life.  We have been consulting with communities of intent of different sorts for many years. From Emerging Leader Labs  to Ecovillages of different sizes. We enter giving, in generosity economy and then, as part of the reciprocity there are monetary and non monetary exchanges. This way of engaging shifts the social contract to one of commitment and accountability to each other and our common ground.  It also fails sometimes as it is an experimentation 😉 (this answers to a small piece of our funding model Gideon Rosenblatt that you kindly mention in your post). We think Gift economy as a disruptive technology and it doesnt mean no money. 


    Doug Breitbart I love the piece of ‘cartoon-like reduction and simplicity, sufficient to enable immediate and intuitive understanding by a broad scope and range of people on the receiving end, without regard to level of education or sophistication’.  VillageLab mission needs that spark and simplicity as we serve communities but also all people who dream of Village, of belonging to community where people watch your back, where there is commitment to your evolution and well-being. Where one can attempt to live according to higher values.   We are connecting the ecovillage movement, transition towns, generation waking up to general audiences thirsty to create the new. We also serve people who want to build ecovillages or co-housing or co-living spaces.  We are very broad in our aspiration yet we have the capacities, social capital and expertise in economical, political, social and cultural levels. 

    We are currently writing a 7 mins story (the why) and a separate one of the how which I feel its a very needed piece to be able to honor and fully receive the value of your generous offers.  I feel shy for such long responses and excited at the same time. Much gratitude for your energy, love and precious precious time. 

  28. Nadine Hack – after faking the balance with one kiddo, I realize I have to really have things in order now that I am a mom to two. There are things that just aren’t OK anymore (working til 3 AM being one of them) and that is going to shift the whole mission of the company and the way we serve clients and the way we serve ourselves.

  29. Jeffrey J Davis hmmm…, well, not surprisingly, I disagree with you on this one. But I’ll start with where I agree. On the question of mission statements influencing purchasing decisions, that’s not quite what I was talking about. The research I cited was around people believing the firm’s values aligned with theirs. And, even there, as I noted, I think it’s really hard to know exactly how this translates into actual purchases rather than what people say they will do. (See the PDF that I linked to in the article for how that maps to sustainability purchases, for example. And, more specifically, I too doubt that a mission statement would drive much in the way of customer behavior. It’s all part of a package that is the brand. The mission has to align with that brand and reinforce it. 

    In my view, the mission statement is more for internal consumption. To be more accurate actually, I would say it’s for the people who are contributing value to the organization. Many of those people are employees, but these days a lot of that value comes from end users, suppliers, distributors and many other stakeholders. It’s for these folks that a very real mission statement really does matter. 

    And what do I mean by a “real” mission statement? More than the actual end result of a couple of sentences, it’s much more the process that the organization uses to get to that clarity of why it exists. The unending fluffery of sanctimonious-sounding mission statements is the direct result of BS process…horse-trading and compromises internally that are more about political turfs than actual introspection on the real why and the real synergies that run across the various modes of adding value. 

    For me, I can tell when a company is serious about a mission statement. I think Google, for example, is serious about their mission statement. Twitter too. And by the way, I think some of this can also be achieved by a clear statement of values, like Zappos: 


    There are many paths to finding real meaning, but the point is, you have to be deliberate about it. 

  30. Brother, you know I respect you immensely. We don’t disagree as much as you might think. I just comment on the reality of the majority current state vis a vis your more aspirational view of what inspirational company leadership could/ should be. Companies like APPL/GOOG are in the minority, was my main point. I just took a new CEO job, I hope I can stay truer to your vision than my ” conventional wisdom”.

  31. Nadine Hack – just checked out the site. I think I actually did it earlier too, when you and I first ran into one another here. Wow, you’ve definitely worked with a lot of heavy hitters. The stakeholder engagement work is of particular interest to me. That’s an area I’m starting to dig into a lot more right now (reading a huge, honking volume of research by R. Edward Freeman and others). 

  32. I hear you, Jeffrey J Davis – ever the idealist, I suppose. I’m a pragmatic idealist though, having had to strike the balance in running teams and organizations before. Much easier for me to lean on the idealism now that I’m mostly writing.  😉

    And speaking of leading, I saw the announcement of your new position over on LinkedIn earlier – congratulations – give us a link to the new place will you?  

  33. Doug Breitbart – thank you for the excellent thoughts there. First, I’m going to give you an “amen” for the part about creating alignment throughout the organization. Mission statement fluffery tends to be one sign of that. Some of the hardest work I ever did in my last job was working through that kind of alignment in our organization through the use of a “theory of change” and  “logic models” for our services. Here’s some of the output from that, but again, the real value was the process itself with the team: 


    I’m also with you on the “cartoon-like” reduction of the messaging for the mission. Long-winded statements don’t stick w/ people. They can’t digest them. So yes, yes, and yes!

    Where I think we part ways a bit is on all players being equal. I really do think that the customers play a pivotal role in the whole equation because if they don’t find value in what all the other stakeholders are creating together, the whole bet is off. So, I think there has to be a very hardcore focus on first meeting that mission. The role of management is very much, I believe, finding the synergy between stakeholder needs, and, where needed, making necessary tradeoffs. So, I think in order to make things actually function in the organization, the leader has to have some sort of internal priority in her head about how best to make those tradeoffs – who matters the most. The key is then avoiding a kind of customer tyranny that might wreck havoc over the rest of the stakeholder ecosystem. But I think the threat of that is much less than the current model where shareholders are the keystone species. 

  34. Marisa Goudy, since I no longer run an organization myself, and much of my work these days is through writing, I can’t tell you how satisfying it is to hear that something I wrote may actually be helping someone with something concrete that they are working through. Thank you for letting me know. 

    Getting the work-life balance right is a huge attractor to a certain mix of prospect employees – not all, of course, but a lot. I don’t what size your firm is (is it just the two of you right now?), or whether you’re planning on growing it in the future, but I can speak from personal experience that getting that right really can bring in excellent people. And yes, parenthood has that effect on putting things into a different perspective, huh? 😉

  35. Gideon Rosenblatt Because the grass is always greener I envy that your energies are fully devoted to writing!

    Yes, it’s just the two of us for now. We’ve been in the unenviable position of building a business and trying to make to pay at the same time. That’s meant we’ve been making it up as we go along with the mission statement being a moving target. As you say, parenthood shifts priorities and forces you into clarity.

  36. It sounds like a wonderful project, Ferananda Ibarra. And yes, when you get back just drop me a note. 

    Are you familiar with YES! Magazine? Seems like something that maps to the values of the magazine. 

  37. There’s so many things I like with this thread, big thanks to you Gideon Rosenblatt for a long ongoing series of fielding excellent questions and for holding space. When I think of a model G+ Netizen, I think of you. If I would mention just one thing: an in-flow, in-thread, thinking things through, towards re-weaving mapping with reality.

  38. Thanks Gideon Rosenblatt – great insight!

  39. Great stuff Gideon Rosenblatt 

  40. Much love and resonance Gideon Rosenblatt t thank you.

  41. John Kellden – thank you so much for the kind words. Sorry for the delayed response – just celebrating our son’s birthday. That means a lot coming from you as one of the real pros at facilitating great conversations and hold a space for deeper discourse on the web. 

    Can you say a bit more about what you mean by an in-flow in re-weaving the mapping? 

  42. Thanks influential and Dallas McMillan – much appreciated. 

  43. 🙂 Ferananda Ibarra. 

  44. You just said and did it Gideon Rosenblatt – how we are engaging in these here complex responsive processes, matters.

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