Don’t Waste Your Time With Mission Statements

Many performers have been summoned to a “team building” meeting and asked to create a mission statement for their athletic team, corporate department, non-profit organization, etc. The problem with these meetings (and most forms of team building) is they ultimately turn out to be a waste of valuable time. Performers have been through these types of exercises many times. They grudgingly attend the meeting, all the while thinking about how much “real work” is piling up while they create a ultimately meaningless series of words. They know the mission statement will end up in a drawer somewhere and fail to guide any meaningful activity. Yet, great teams need to understand why they exist and what they are trying to achieve. So, what’s the solution?

In Jim Collins’ research, he found that great companies have a fundamental sense of purpose. A well crafted Statement of Purpose is motivational and also provides a litmus test for a team or company to focus its activity and energy. If an activity or initiative is inconsistent with the Statement of Purpose, don’t do it!

Some great Statements cited by Collins:

  • Marriott: Making people away from home feel that they’re among friends and really wanted.
  • Disney: To make people happy.

Similarly, great teams and companies have a clear vision of what they are trying to achieve. It is compelling and motivational. Examples of great vision statements also cited by Collins include:

  • Ford: Democratize the automobile.
  • Stanford University: Become the Harvard of the West.
I have found these concepts invaluable in my work with teams and organizations. Ditch the mission statements and give your team a compelling reason why they exist and a clear vision for success. Your sign of success will be they are actually motivated to attend your next team meeting, rather than checking email!


  1. Dr. Mark Tobin Mark Tobin says:

    Thanks for your comment Geri, you’re spot on. Why do you exist is exactly the right question. The best Statements of Purpose also do not specifically mention the product or service. That’s just the vehicle for accomplishing the underlying purpose.

  2. Completely agree with you. when I read the headline “Are mission statements a waste of time?” my initial reaction was yes . . . flowery words will only take you so far. The question I too ask is why do you exist? If they can’t answer that question they have a bigger problem. If they can answer it they already know their “mission” and they don’t need a statement to solidify it in their minds. If you know the vision, the mission will follow – statement or not.

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