How important are a school’s mission and vision statements? This question can garner a fair amount of debate. Some will adamantly support the practice, stating that when everyone is on the same page and have shared expectations, they work toward a common goal. But, there are also the people who have been in education for a long time and have witnessed many hours go into the creation of a mission or vision statement, only to then see the words collect dust and get ignored.
This isn’t a scenario that is unique to education — it happens in all forms of business. A mission or vision statement isn’t a magic utterance that will change every employee’s outlook the moment they hear it. It is, though, a guide that when truly embraced from the top will direct the path for your school.
What is the real power of a mission statement?
Savvy Travelers, a company that makes travel wipes, rethought their mission when sales began to lag. They chose to sharpen their statement to specify their target audience. The result? An increase in retailers carrying their product. That increase didn’t just come from having new words in their mission statement. The co-founders embraced the new mission and made changes. Rather than packaging their products for men and women, they did what their mission said and focused on making their product appealing to their main demographic: women. This seemingly minor change, when supported, resulted in “a massive upswing in sales.”
While a narrowed down version of a mission statement can work well for some, others might thrive under something broader. Part of Amazon’s mission statement is to the be Earth’s most customer-centric company. As far as goals go, it doesn’t get much broader than that. However, it still demonstrates Amazon’s focus on the customer. This type of mission statement allows Amazon room to grow and offer services that even their direct competitors can benefit from, because at the end of the day, the customer comes first. Amazon’s words have company-wide meaning. The mission statement is an operating philosophy that guides the way they do business.
How does a school create an effective mission or vision statement?
- Define what you want to accomplish. Understanding what need the mission or vision statement will fill and how it will be used is an essential part in planning. How will it be used to guide day-to-day operations? How will it help direct faculty members? What about students? Think about the mission or vision statement in the broadest terms and determine how it can best serve your school.
- Recruit participant buy in. Assigning a hesitant committee may not produce results that will inspire many people. Talk about the project and choose the people who are most enthused about the possibility a great mission statement can provide.
- Give your committee direction, but leave room for independent thought and debate. Now that you have an enthused committee ready to work on the mission and vision, do not stifle the creativity or new ideas. Let them know your ultimate goals for how the mission or vision will work and them let them develop the solution for how to get there.
- Keep it short. Lengthy mission and vision statements can be easily dismissed or ignored. Make sure it is short enough to be remembered.
- Identify the obstacles the mission statement will encounter before being widely adopted. Who are the key stakeholders who will need to embrace the ideas and terminology in the mission or vison statement? How can you help include them in the process so they too feel ownership when it comes to the mission or vision?
- Remember that a mission and vision statement can, and should, change. Revisit the mission statement during the school year and at the end of the year. Is it still serving the purpose you intended? How can it be better? Have there been changes in your school that make the mission or vision statement obsolete? Let evolution be part of your goal.