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The Short Mission Statement By Mark L. Vincent

The Agony and Ecstasy of the Short Mission Statement

The organizational development Community of Practice of which I am Founder expresses its corporate mission statement as follows:

Design Group International helps organizations and their leaders transform for a vibrant future.

It is 13 words long, including the name of our company. It is clear and understandable. We worked on it for a long time. I am still not satisfied.

  • It is at least 5 words too long for people to easily recall and repeat.
  • It does not yet convey the love and competence we bring to leaders and their organizations.

It might be argued that getting it still tighter might bring no improvement at all. Perhaps we will cut the essence away, some vital chord that holds the life of our company.

Not likely.

Not likely because when you read it, you didn’t say “Oh wow.” You didn’t rush to call us because we can help you. You did not immediately call someone over so you could share it with them. Should you mention our company to a colleague our current mission statement won’t come to mind. In my view, it is better to have a crappy mission statement that is remembered and almost involuntarily conveyed than to have an excellent one no-one recalls.

Here is an illustration of this important point. I live near the John Michael Kohler Arts Center. It is a magnificent place doing wonderful work.  It’s carefully crafted mission statement used to be:

Through innovative explorations in the arts, the John Michael Kohler Arts Center generates a creative exchange between an international community of artists and a broad, diverse public that makes real the power of the arts to transform lives and strengthen communities.

Only the board and executive staff were likely to recall this mission statement, and only with the time taken to memorize it. Then, when attempting to recall it, that board member would break eye contact, briefly departing this earth while accessing their memory banks. It was not a natural and inviting expression.

The updated mission statement is better:

Our mission is to generate a creative exchange between artists and the public.

This statement is brief, memorable, actionable, and measurable. It can be recited while remaining present in a conversation.  And yet, it still feels vanilla, generic to most any arts center.  Shouldn’t there be something more distinctive and artful in it?

By contrast, Mary Nohl, the works of whom the John Michael Kohler Arts Center has been the curator, is reported to have expressed the following mission for her life work:

A woman who likes tools.

Like this mission or not, you will remember it. You stop and notice it. It conveys her brand and mission simultaneously. You immediately gain insight into her artistic approach. It will influence how you see her work, should you have the privilege.

I want a mission statement like that!

This is hard work, folks!

Agony and ecstasy.


Mark L. Vincent Ph.D, CCNLEPC is the Founder of Design Group International, a Community of Practice devoted to Process Consulting, helping organizations and their leaders transform for a vibrant future.


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