How do you draft a team mission?

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This topic contains 14 replies, has 10 voices, and was last updated by  Nancy J. Hess 8 years ago.

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  • #154082

    Megan Libby

    My Division is beginning to revise our mission and vision statements. I’d love to hear about best practices from across the government in leading a team to develop a strong mission and vision statement.

    What are the key questions we should be asking ourselves?

    What is the best format for reaching true consensus?

    Thanks in advance!

  • #154110

    Nancy J. Hess

    Sounds like a wonderful opportunity to engage the team in reflection and interaction around the core questions, why do we exist? What do we care most about? How do we (individually, collectively) envision success in five or ten years? There are many possible ways to engage the group and a facilitator can help you design the process. A facilitator is important to ensure that everyone is a participant (including the leader) and whether you arrange for a retreat or set aside time for a few hours every week or every other week, it is important to make it a priority for everyone.

    How big is your team? Future Search has wonderful ideas for mapping the history of the group and informs the members about where team members have been (individually and collectively) and what might influence current and future context. Other context exercises, like a graphic picture of the current world in which the team operates, e.g., regulatory environment, technology, organization culture, hopes and dreams vs current reality…..

    Just a few thoughts, I am sure others will provide plenty for you to consider.

    Nancy J Hess

  • #154108

    Wayne Melton

    Take 20 minutes to develop the mission statement then take a year to implement with each employee in the group. You will need to train, implement, reinforce, measure, retrain, and reimplement. You will need to control each part on a weekly basis with your entire team. Lots of time managers write mission statement that one year from now no one even knows. You will need to avoid that problem more than just writing some words for a mission statement.

    Edward Melton

  • #154106

    David Dejewski

    Nice. Edward makes a good point.

  • #154104

    David Dejewski

    Consensus can be a double edged sword. It’s good when people reach it (and use it) in order to achieve common good. This means all participants are generally in support of the leadership structure and are focused on the issues instead of the politics. When it is used as a weapon to keep members and agendas in check, it has the effect of crippling an organization and rendering forward progress impossible.

    It’s important to confirm the group’s commitment to one another and to an agreed set of outcomes up front. When I say commitment, I mean with words, money and action. Anyone can say they are in support. That doesn’t mean they are.

    It’s also important to ensure that the group reaching consensus has the power and authority to do something with it once the exercise is over. It does no good to have a delegated group of people reach consensus – only to have it overturned by a someone or some group that chose not to participate.

    For consensus to work, get the right people, resources and spirit in the room.

  • #154102

    Jonelle L. Hilleary

    Megan: Good question! In general, the Mission Statement will reflect the founding or establishment of the organization, perhaps in legislation or charter. Why was the division created- for what purpose?

    The Mission statement will be a by product of that, i.e., the mission statement for an organization supporting DoD will be broad, while a division within that organization may focus on one specific piece, say acquisition. Your Mission might be to support DoD acquisition function by X, Y, and Z. The Division vision statement might be “to be a model of efficient and accurate acquisition, fulfilling DoD/organizational needs in a timely and effective manner.”

    The main idea is to look to the past to direct the future- think about why your division has been established and create a sentence or two that encapsulates what needs to happen. You can take time to wordsmith the statement after you get the basic idea on paper or a whiteboard, etc.

    The Vision statement should reflect your division achieving the mission- an end state to reach for, to inspire you to be better tomorrow than today.

    As for the format for reaching consensus, that depends on time and leadership constraints. I have worked on plans that took 1 month to finalize, and those that took more than 1 year to create and socialize before being adopted. There is no one right answer- it depends on organizational or team needs and the urgency of action.

    In general though, I would say, that fast is not always best and slow does not necessarily guarantee a perfect product. Allow representatives to comment on the wording, the thoughts and their impression of the vision. Does it inspire them to work toward this vision? Do they like being aligned with a mission stated this way? How does the overall guidance fit with what you know the company values to be? These are some questions that will be key to your success. Good Luck!

  • #154100

    Ed Powell

    A team is established and assigned work by management. (Consensus on mission is appropriate for situations like, for example, groups of friends are deciding whether to form a Wine Club or a Gourmet Club.) The purpose of the team (OUTCOMES sought) should be specified on establishment and THEN team input is sought on organization, process, interim goals and metrics.

  • #154098

    Mark C. Thomas

    All good comments. First, you need a facilitator to guide the process. Brainstorming to throw out main points for the mission and vision will get things rolling. It is important to follow the groundrules for brainstorming, though – don’t discuss or criticize ideas thrown out. One to two minutes should be enough. Then go through each word thrown out and discuss/clarify them. Then start “looping and grouping” them into main ideas. Once that is completed, start formulating your statement into sentances. Make sure everyone participates (this is the facilitator’s job). The mission is what you do. The vision is where you want to be in 5 to 10 years, but make it measureable and attainable.

  • #154096

    Steve Ressler

    Agree on the facilitation needed.

  • #154094

    Steve Ressler

    My gut being part of a few mission statements and values:

    -It has to be short & memorable. The more it sounds like “X organization is dedicated to blah blah blah” just doesn’t work. Has to be “our mission is to protect the warfighter”

    -Has to be used throughout your activities – so if you are “protect the warfighter” make sure to use that in a lot of different mediums (print, web, weekly meetings, etc)

  • #154092

    Megan Libby

    Hi Nancy:

    Our team is quite small – we have about 15 people, actually three branches each with 4 staff, and then we have two support staff and a director that cross all branches. Just big enough to either avoid group think, or make consensus an impossible task, depending on who you ask 🙂

    I suppose I am the facilitator, but it is by default: everyone realizes the importance of this effort, but it is a collateral duty for the entire team, so it’s been hard to keep it moving in a truly collaborative way. I’m going to definitely check out Future Search as a resource: thanks for the suggestion!

  • #154090

    Megan Libby

    I like this distinction that Edward Powell and David Dejewskiare making about consensus. It also makes things easier on me as default facilitator: I can lead a brainstorm session and then come up with draft mission statements without feeling like I’m putting too much of my own thought process into a group product. Very helpful Gentlemen!

    What do you all think about balancing the need to write a mission statement with other duties? I’m running into the issue where everyone agrees that mission statements are important, but coming up with a good one is a collateral duty for everyone involved, and it is difficult to ‘keep the ball rolling’, so to speak. A lot of support, but no champion for getting it done: I’m very open to suggestions here!

  • #154088

    David Dejewski

    Make this statement: “Anyone who would like to help me write this, please step forward. We’ll have a finished X by .” Set and publish a deadline to have the project done.
    When you see that no one has stepped forward, look around. You’ll might find that everyone else has taken a step backwards – leaving you as the one who stepped forward by default. It’s an old trick that is still popular in the workplace.
    Just do it or it won’t get done. Submit whatever you’ve done for review by the group, and remind them that they have until the deadline to chop on it. People are usually happy to bleed red ink on you’re work, so don’t get upset if they do. Stick to your schedule.
    Point at the clock and stop work when you reach the time limit – no matter how much feedback you got (or didn’t get). You’ve got a finished mission statement, so publish it.
    Concensus by default. You gave everyone ample opportunity to contribute. If they chose not to, it’s not your problem.
    Then publish “on-ramps” for when the statement will be reviewed – let’s say every six months, for example, and give the date. Anyone who feels that they have something to add can jump in 30 days (or whatever you announce) before the next publish date. Tell them how they can get involved and offer to collect their comments now for consideration by the group in version 2. Version 1 is done. Version 2 can be influenced in five to six months. Tell them you’ll see them all then.
    If the mission statement is truly value added to the organization, people will get involved. If it’s not, they won’t. Either way, you’ve calibrated level of effort with value produced, held people accountable for their own action or inaction, and produced a published document when you said you would.

  • #154086

    Scott Primeau

    In Drive, Dan Pink describes the “Whose Purpose is it Anyway” exercise as a way to help motivate a team or employees. I think it could also be a very useful method of brainstorming a mission statement or even a very high-level starting point for a strategic plan.

    The exercise lets people express what they think the organization’s purpose is.

    The exercise is described on page 5 of the PDF at

  • #154084

    Jorge Aponte

    Keep it simple:

    Purpose: Achieve what? The statement is better when it is expressed in quantitative terms; do not degrade a mission statement defining grades or minimum, set the goal at 100% of Quantity and Quality.

    Team: By whom? Name the Team responsible and ensure each one understand fully the mission and his/her role.

    Time-Date Measure: When? It may be a date, a number of hours/days/weeks, but it should always have a definite end date. Otherwise, “in five weeks” may carry-on to within two years…and still be on target.

    A criteria I use to keep members on track is to continuously ask (as tasks are carried out), how “that” adds to, or fit in the Mission?

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