Achieve Your Mission
Mission is a valued cornerstone in organizations. It is expressed in the mission statement. I have generally dismissed these as bland, similar, and vague. They are populated by such terms as excellent, inclusive, community-based, and innovative. Mission goodness or relevance is often produced with hyphens. Groups are mission-driven, mission- focused, mission-based. I am always suspicious of hyphens. They can put two words together without any sense of how they connect.
Recently, however, I have broadened my thinking to include missions for individuals, where I think the term might work better to increase accomplishment. Here are three reasons.
First, missions give people an aiming point. It is personal and clear. When I hear people talking about a personal mission, they seem to have or get to clarity on specifics much more readily than do groups of people Individuals rarely craft and polish a written document when they pursue something. They are on a mission not a mission statement. They just stride out. In contrast, when we ask an organization if it has achieved its mission, fulfilment is generally based on whether it did what it said it would do and with the values it said it held. In short, mission statements are not about results.
Second, personal missions are simpler. A quick internet scan picked up this definition, similar to many definitions I found: “The mission statement is a short statement of why an organization exists, what its overall goal is, the goal of its operations: what kind of product or service it provides, its primary customers or market, and its geographical region of operation.” A personal mission does not need all of those components. I am focused on painting my house, reading two books, getting one new idea at a conference, and getting a civil relationship with my kid.
Third, personal missions give permission to exclude. To concentrate on one thing, you have to give up trying to do all things. The person on a mission tends to think or say: not now, I am on a mission. With organizational missions, in contrast, the trend is in the oppositive direction. We craft the mission statement to be broadly inclusive. By reaching out we lose the ability to dig in.
My plea is that we hold organizations to the same rigor that individuals tend to use to define and pursue things they want to accomplish. I am on a mission to make this point.