How to develop a mission statement

We see mission statements and there’s always a mix between those that are very abstract and try to be all things to all people and those that are actually describing activities rather than what they are trying to achieve. Compare these two mission statements:

“We are strongly committed to our customers. Our ambition is to provide meaningful benefits to all our customers. We listen closely and align our activities to their needs. Our goal is the improvement of their overall quality of life, and being a trustworthy and reliable partner in their wellbeing”

“We want to ease the suffering of the sick and injured, by developing powerful, safe, pain-relieving drugs”

What differences and similarities do you notice? They are in faction mission statements from the same organisation around the same purpose, and yet you wouldn’t know from the first version what they actually did, it could be any organisation.

I’ve found the Value Proposition by Design and Business Model for Teams book effective in helping craft a mission statement that sets out the value your team brings to the people it wants to serve.

Examples of powerful value propositions that councils can learn from that I’ve found inspiring include Wigan’s The Deal, Policy Lab and NESTA.

I’ve found that for corporate teams whose role is to support an organisation, learning from the value propositions of agencies is particularly helpful, as the latter really do need to not just define what they do but distinguish themselves by what additionality they create. Take a look for example, at the Innovation Unit, Snook and FutureGov’s value propositions, in how they describe the direct impact they have on the organisations they work with and the wider impact this helps the organisations have on their own audiences.

What are the most powerful mission statements or value proposition you’ve seen? How have you developed yours for your team or service?

To work a mission statement or value proposition needs to be broken down into:

  1. Who are the people your team or service wants to serve

1. Who are the people your team or service wants to serve?

In terms of who your team/service wants to serve, it’s important to distinguish who you directly support and who you indirectly support. You may indirectly support residents or the general public, but you might directly support frontline services to do that themselves.

In the strategy, change, service design or partnership teams I’ve led, I’ve always tried to make sure we are clear who are the people we’re here to support and what needs we help them meet. That means that we have distinguished the value we provide to the

  • the senior leadership of the organisation (i.e. enabling the senior leadership to work well together to anticipate strategic challenges and develop solutions together to tackle them, helping improve the reputation of the borough & council to its residents, partners & regulators)

2. What are the needs you help each of those groups of people meet?

When identifying the different needs you help each of those groups of people meet, I find it helpful to take a design approach, where you speak to those groups about what their needs are and what opportunities there are too. These may be functional needs — like redesigning service to meet the needs of residents. They may also be more social or reputational needs — like improving the reputation of the borough to national decision-makers. They may also be opportunities they or you have identified they want to take advantage of or even create, like building on the success of working with young people to redesign services to help them develop a youth cooperative.

These should be two-way conversations where you’re creating the space for them to share their needs and opportunities and for you to share lessons you’ve learnt, ideas you have they could take on, or inspiration from elsewhere. You could even use this valuable work detector:

When you’ve identified those insights, you can then develop a set of user journeys for each of those stakeholders that tells the story of how your team can help them increase their impact.

Imaginary story from the future

  • “By taking part in a show & tell on x issue, I shared feedback on how could improve x process from my own experience as frontline staff.

You could break it down by having a different user journey for each group of people you’re serving:

  • As a member of staff, I will better be able to understand how my council will support communities through 2021 (x strategy), what is expected of me and how I will be supported (x programme), and how my contribution and that of my team links into its wider outcomes (x OD plan)

In my next post, I will blog about the ways of working, skills and partners you use to meet those needs and the impact you might have.

Head of Policy & Research @newhamlondon #localgov Co-founder of #systemschange & #servicedesign progs. inspired by @cescaalbanese