What Is a Mission Statement?

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A mission statement describes the purpose of a program or the reason for its

existence. Sometimes it is called a purpose statement. Mission and purpose

may be regarded as synonymous.

Formulating a mission statement is a first step in organizational planning.

Writers on organizational strategy suggest that formulating an organizational

mission should precede formulating strategy. An organizational mission statement

answers such questions as these: Why is the organization in business?

What results is it trying to achieve? What market does it serve? What products

or services does it offer?

Mission statements may also be formulated for organizational functions

(such as operations, finance, marketing, or personnel), divisions, locations, or

activities. At levels below the organization, mission statements for functions,

divisions, locations, or activities should answer such questions as these:

Why does the function, division, location, or activity exist?

How does it contribute to achieving the organization’s mission? Its strategic

plans?

What outcomes or results are expected from it?

Mission statements may also provide philosophical statements (What do we

believe?), product or service descriptions (What is to be made or sold?), customer

descriptions (Whose needs are to be served?), and rationale (Why is the

mission worth performing?).

What Questions Should Be Answered by a Mission Statement?

Like any organizational effort, an SP&M program should have a mission statement

to explain why it exists, what outcomes are desired from it, why those

outcomes are valuable, what products or services will be offered, who will be

served by the program, and other issues of importance. However, mission

statements for SP&M programs will vary across organizations. After all, not all

programs are designed to serve the same purpose, achieve the same results,

or offer the same products or services. So what specific issues should be addressed

in a mission statement for an SP&M program?

One way to begin to answer that question is to focus on issues of particular

importance to the organization. In that way, decision-makers will formulate

the program’s mission. Such issues may include:

1. What is a key position?

2. What is the definition of a high potential (HiPo)?

3. What is the organization’s responsibility in identifying HiPos, and what

should it be?

4. What is the definition of an exemplary performer?

5. What is the organization’s responsibility in identifying and rewarding

exemplary performers? What should it be?

6. How should the organization fill key positions?

7. What percentage of vacancies in key positions should be filled from

within? From outside? Handled through other means?

8. What percentage of key positions should have at least one identifiable

backup (successor)?

9. In what percentage of key positions should there be holes (that is, no

designated successors)?

10. What is the maximum time that exemplary performers should remain

in their positions?

11. What should be the maximum allowable percentage of avoidable turnover

among high potentials? Exemplary performers? What should be

done to reduce it?

12. What should be the maximum allowable percentage of failures in key

positions after individual advancement?

13. What percentage of key positions should be filled with employees

from legally protected labor groups—such as women, minorities, and

the disabled?

14. How desirable are international assignments for designated successors?

15. How should HiPos be prepared for advancement?

16. What should be the role and responsibility of each employee and the

HR department in the process of developing HiPos?

17. How much should individual career goals be exposed, considered,

and tracked in succession planning?

18. How openly should the organization communicate with individuals

who are identified to be HiPos about their status?

Of course, additional questions may also be posed to help clarify program

purpose. Use the Worksheet appearing in Exhibit 6-3 to help clarify the mission

of SP&M in an organization.