Don’t be missin’ the mission: Why it matters and how to put it at the core of what you do.

As the world-altering, oft-quoted, guru for community change Mahatma Gandhi said: “A small body of determined spirits fired by an unquenchable faith in their mission can alter the course of history.”

These true words are at the very heart of Javelina, what we do, and what drives us. But what is the vital ingredient in this equation?

Mission.

Because you need to know what it is before you can have unquenchable faith in it, and certainly before you inspire others to have unquenchable faith in it also.

I wrote a few weeks ago about the power of knowing and articulating your purpose. (And if you missed it, check out the first part in this 4-part series on why it matters to have an overall vision.)

If your purpose is your organization’s north star, then your mission is your roadmap for how to get there. Your organization’s mission describes in a nutshell what it is that you do in order to meet your purpose.

Javelina’s purpose is to advance equality and human dignity through social, political and economic change. Our mission is to bring your story to life so that you can change the world. Put together, we help people tell their powerful story so that they can make meaningful and lasting change that makes life better for as many people as possible.

Here are a couple well-known examples:

Tesla:

  • Purpose: To change the fundamental energy infrastructure of the world.
  • Mission: To accelerate the advent of sustainable transport by bringing compelling mass-market electric cars to market as soon as possible.

Amazon:

  • Purpose: To create freedom of choice.
  • Mission: To be Earth’s most customer-centric company; to build a place where people can come to find and discover anything they might want to buy online.

A mission statement is way more than something you throw up on your website and add to the footer of your letterhead. It is absolutely core to knowing how you’re going to meet your goals and fulfill your purpose. And as Gandhi’s quote shows, it might be a little word in the middle of the sentence, but it is in fact the catalyst and driving impetus for change.

How to develop a mission statement

If you didn’t already, refer back to the blog post on how to develop your purpose because the process for capturing your mission is very similar. You want to gather your core team members together for a few hours of concentrated work time together. Pick a quiet room with a whiteboard and bring plenty of snacks.

My big tip is this: Don’t attempt to develop your purpose and mission statements simultaneously. Each one should get its own designated session. You could do them back-to-back within the same day, so long as they are in distinct time blocks. This is because it is fairly easy to conflate the two things, but they each play an important role in defining your overall vision. When you try and talk about both at once it gets very confusing and you tend to end up with a paragraph-long description full of cliches and buzz phrases.

Much like the session for developing your purpose statement, you should start off with a warmup or ice-breaking session. Here are 51 ideas you could use.

There are many activities you can use to develop your mission statement as a team. The one you pick will largely depend on the size of your group and your starting point – are you drafting a brand new statement or updating one that already exists? Here are three suggestions:

  • Ideal for groups that are starting completely from scratch: In pairs or threes, think of a recent example of where you did your best work. Write out the story – who took what actions and what were the outcomes? Once your story is written, you want to distinguish where in your story you talk about your cause, your actions and your impact. Identifying these will hugely help your team to understand what goes into your mission. Check out this incredibly helpful step-by-step guide for this activity. 
  • Ideal for groups that already have a strong idea of what your mission statement should include: Take 5-10 minutes for each person in the group to write down draft mission statements. Each person can write as many drafts as they like, but each one should be written on an individual post-it note. After solo time is up, come together and share your ideas. Put them on the wall, and group similar ones together. As a large group, discuss the drafts and work together to compile the most powerful and agreed upon aspects of everyone’s ideas to make one, complete statement that everyone agrees on. 
  • Ideal for groups that are updating an existing statement: As a group, evaluate your current mission statement. What does it do well? What doesn’t it capture? Get on the same page as to why you are reevaluating the mission statement. From this place, conduct either of the activities described above – whichever you think will work best for your specific circumstances and group. When you are considering new drafts, check back on your reasons for updating the mission in the first place – does the new suggestion meet that need?

How to make your mission mean something

Capturing your purpose and mission statements is an incredible milestone in the development of any organization. What the vast majority of groups do is at this point is add the language to their website and then forget about it. This isn’t enough, and won’t serve you.

Your purpose and mission enable you and your team to truly change the world. Groups that transform the world do it with intention. But this only works when your purpose and mission are continually front of mind. Every single person in your organization should know exactly what your purpose and mission are. They should be referred to regularly. They should be used when making big decisions. From who you hire to what events you attend, your purpose and mission are not only the roadmap for what your organization will achieve in the future but also your guide for what your day-to-day calendar should look like.

Here are some tips on how to make sure your purpose and mission don’t go to your website ‘About Us’ page to die:

  • Talk about them. Bring them up in performance reviews. Integrate them into any regular meetings you and your team have. Your staff meeting, department meeting, monthly birthday celebration. Whatever it is, take some time to reflect on and talk about your purpose and mission. Put the statements on the agenda, ask people to share examples of when they have been lived out in your work together, take turns in reciting them out loud. Whatever it is, find ways to ingrain them in everyone’s consciousness. 
  • Keep them somewhere visible. On the office wall, screensavers, framed pictures on people’s desks…get creative and integrate them into your physical space. 
  • Practice what you preach. Make sure the essence of your work is integrated into how you work together and how you show up for your customers, clients or service users. As obvious as it might be, your purpose and mission don’t mean anything if they mean nothing. If your nonprofit promotes sustainability, ensure your office culture and practices support that mission. If your business sells coaching services, ensure your staff have access to that same support and guidance.

Developing and integrating your purpose and mission into how your team thinks, talks and acts will open up new possibilities for what you are able to achieve together. Coming soon is the final part of this four-part series: Values. If purpose is the moon and mission is the roadmap, organizational values are the oxygen that keeps the whole thing alive.

Javelina Blog Author Ariel Reyes

Javelina Blog Author

 

M.D. Leto, Blog Writer

 

M.D. Leto writes blogs, poems, and stories for social change. She functions in the background of several incredible projects underfoot and underway. From time-to-time she is invited to read her poetry in front of people. She lives near the beeline highway with her wife, four chickens, two dogs and several experimental gardens.

 

Email Javelina Blog Author Catherine AlonzoFollow Catherine Alonzo on TwitterFollow Catherine Alonzo on Instagram

 

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