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Engaging in Organizational Soul-Searching
by Andrew E. Schwartz

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For startup companies and businesses in transition, a mission statement is critical.

A mission statement is a charter that defines the basic business in which the enterprise will engage, the types of products it will make or the services it will provide, the markets it will serve, and perhaps how the company will conduct its affairs - in other words, its purpose. Some managers may tend to regard its preparation as an academic exercise in verbal hairsplitting that offers little guidance in making hard decisions. Indeed, some mission statements are so broad and vague as to recall the prophecies of ancient oracles; others are mere public-relations floss. But if done well, a mission statement can establish a firm foundation for guiding a startup company on the best course or an older business in transition in setting its growth strategy.

Time Well Spent: Mission statements can help companies determine their proper market niche, suggest new fields for the company to conquer, and even serve as a constraint, indicating, perhaps only implicitly, enterprises in which they must refrain from participating. Without the mission statement, getting sidetracked gets easier.

Mission statements can further the cause of sound planning in other ways, too. The act of devising a statement forces management to take a hard look at its external threats and opportunities and at its internal competencies. If this part of the planning process had been neglected, drafting a mission statement will perhaps focus attention on such potential weak areas.

If an organization lacks a mission statement, it is worthwhile to at least try to draft one. Even if it does not yield an acceptable final draft, the exercise will be rewarding for the hard work which must go into figuring out the company’s direction and putative purpose.

Mission statements may not be applicable to some organizations. There are those simply too diversified to have them. It would take an artful writer to define the mission of such conglomerate companies. It is not unusual, however, to find mission statements for each of the constituent businesses of diversified companies. These statements may permit the corporate office personnel and the management of each subsidiary business to agree on the scope and limitations of the markets that the constituent businesses will serve and the products or services they will offer. They can also help the employees feel that they are contributing to the goals of the parent company, while still maintaining a focus on the subsidiary in which they are employed.


Andrew E. Schwartz, CEO, A.E. Schwartz & Associates of Boston, MA a comprehensive management training and professional development organization offering over 40 skills specific programs and practical solutions to today's business challenges.

Copyright, AE Schwartz & Associates. All rights reserved.
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