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Is Your Company's Mission Preventing You From Winning?

I was talking to the head of a company recently about what things they should focus on in order to improve. He’s the kind of guy who really likes mission statements. I was in a cynical mood (please, no cynical comments about how there is nothing unusual about that), but instead of telling him that I think mission statements are B.S., I said “your company’s mission is to win new contracts.” That’s when things got interesting.

It turned out to be a useful way to look at things. For example, they have an operations group that was struggling to meet deadlines and maintain customer satisfaction. All that talk about wanting to be “universally regarded as the foremost practitioners of outstanding customer satisfaction,” or whatever their mission statement actually is, wasn’t helping them. But when you look at the job of operations as being to win new contracts, then performing well enough to get an outstanding past performance evaluation from your customers becomes a necessary part of achieving your mission.

It also makes your mission success measurable. It’s not a bunch of happy-words with no actual meaning. It’s also more honest. It’s closer to what you are actually in business to do. When your mission is to win more contracts, it becomes more clear what each part of your company needs to do. The most useful aspect of it becomes the way it provides direction to everybody. Because everybody plays a role in winning new business. Most people don’t think of their job in those terms. But if you make it your company’s mission, it helps them to see it that way.

Being clear and honest with your mission statement tells everyone, from human resources, accounting, operations, facilities, purchasing, accounts receivable, to operations and every group or department in your company what they need to work together to achieve. When your mission statement is about the “highest levels of quality” or other similar hyperbole, it doesn’t give the various groups that make up your company any direction, tell them how to work together, or tell them how to make the trade-offs that arise.

If you make it your mission to win new contracts, it does not mean your company should make things look good long enough to get new business and then do the minimum to maximize profit. You don’t win repeat business that way. And you don’t win referrals. It kills your past performance record. When you make it your mission to win new contracts, it means that if any part of your company fails in performance or does not achieve the highest customer satisfaction levels, it’s jeopardizing the mission.

In most companies the operations group is caught in between the profitability pressures and satisfying the customer. In most companies, their “mission” is in direct conflict with their real goal of achieving maximum profit. This is part of the reason why people in the company ignore the mission statement. Of course the fact that most mission statements don’t say anything may also have something to do with it.

In some companies, the mission statement is written to impress their customers. Being ambiguous, saying nothing, or trying to be all things to all people does not impress anyone. If you are looking to your mission statement to summarize what your company does, then what you really need is an elevator speech. An elevator speech providing a short description of what you do is very different from the goals that you exist in order to achieve. Your mission statement also does not need to segment or identify who your customers are.

If you need a mission statement you can post on your website and tell your customers, then try something like this:


Our mission is to win new contracts. We strive to develop the capabilities, resources, and qualifications required to achieve that mission. If we fail to achieve the highest levels of customer satisfaction, if we get poor performance reports, or if our customers don’t sing our praises, we jeopardize our ability to fulfill that mission and we fail as a company.


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By Carl Dickson, Founder of

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