How to Tell if Your Mission Has Lost Its Meaning

Raise your hand if your company has a mission statement.

Most companies have one. Yours probably does. Mine does. But have you ever wondered what purpose the mission actually serves?

You could go with the stock answer here. "The mission tells everyone why the company exists." Ok, let's test that. See if you can answer three questions about your company's mission statement:

  1. What is it?
  2. What does it mean?
  3. How do you contribute?

Nobody's listening to that voice inside your head, so you can be honest. Did you struggle to come up with a quick answer to those three questions? If so, your mission isn't fulfilling it's purpose.

Now, go ask your employees the same three questions and see if you get consistent answers. If you get a lot of blank looks or wildly different responses, your mission has lost its meaning.

How the Mission Drives Service Quality

I'm taking some liberty with terminology here, so let me take a moment to clarify.

Elite organizations have created a shared definition of outstanding customer service that all employees understand. I call this a customer service vision.

This customer service vision can be a stand alone statement, but often it does double duty as a company's mission, vision, values, or customer service standards. Most, but not all, elite organizations use their mission statement to define outstanding service for their employees.

So a clear mission can give employees guidance in their daily activities. Here are just a few benefits:

  • It provides a sense of purpose when they come to work.
  • It acts as a compass to point in the right direction in moments of uncertainty.
  • It reinforces what employees should be doing to serve customers.

For example, JetBlue has led J.D. Power's North American Airline rankings for 12 consecutive years. A lot of their success comes from using their mission statement, Inspire Humanity, as a shared definition of outstanding service.

Every JetBlue crewmember (i.e. employee) knows his or her job is to bring a human touch to service. In an age of self-service and automation, humanity is sorely needed.

JetBlue is one of the outstanding companies profiled in my new book, The Service Culture Handbook. It's due out in April, 2017, but you can download Chapter One when you sign-up for updates.

Why Employees Don't Know the Mission

There are three common reasons why employees don't know or understand the mission.

  1. It's never mentioned. The mission is almost never openly discussed.
  2. It's not trained. Employees receive no instruction on what it means or how to live it.
  3. It's not a priority. Employees are overloaded with too many statements like a mission, vision, values, credo, slogan, brand promise, customer service standards, etc. that create confusion about what's important.

That last one really stands out. Employees won't know or understand the mission unless you make it a priority. That challenge here is many leaders fall into the multiple priorities trap.


The Know Your Mission Challenge

Back to those three questions.

You can restore your mission (or customer service vision) to relevance if you can provide the training and coaching necessary to help each employee give a consistent answer to these three questions:

  1. What is it?
  2. What does it mean?
  3. How do I contribute?

Are you up to the challenge?