Your mission statement answers how you will close the gap between your problem statement and your vision statement. It is the method with which you will solve the problem of your project.
Let's Get On With It Already!
By now you might be getting kind of antsy. You didn't start this project to write a bunch of statements. Writing these statements can feel like we are avoiding getting the real work done. Deep inside you there is a voice saying, "Let's jump in there and get on with it already!" And just to chap your hide even more we don't get to the execution phase until step #19. Step 19!??
I hear that voice, as well. I get inspired by stories of entrepreneurs like Steve Jobs launching iPhones before they are ready and fixing the bugs later. I love the fact that "Move Fast" is one of the five core values of Facebook. These stories make me want to jump into the real work of the project and clean up the mess later. But one thing that Facebook, Apple, Amazon, NASA, Google, Microsoft, and the US Military all have in common is a profound respect for project management processes that work. They put them to use in all of their projects. They know that if they don't they will lose their competitive advantage. It isn't sexy to talk about all of the processes that go into managing a project - but these organizations owe their success to them and continue to use thousands of such processes to survive. For our purposes, 25 steps will do. For small projects the first six steps could be completed in a 45-minute meeting if that meeting is well led.
When you hear those words do you get steely-eyed and focused? That's because you are closing in on the plan. In your mission statement you are stating how you are going to fix your problem, deliver your product, result, or service. If you include a timeline it should only be high-level. Again, don't get too specific. There is a gap in knowledge created by stating a problem and a vision for how things will look when it is solved. By stating a high-level mission you begin to fill that gap. In this way, your mission can also serve as an effective marketing tool for your stakeholders, as well as a general guide for your team.
The following examples connect to the problem and vision statements from our previous post:
Ex #1: Family Involvement
Mission Statement: Over the course of three years we will determine the obstacles that families in our community face in supporting their children academically and will partner with them to overcome those obstacles. Through conducting targeted market research we will discover what motivates our community to enter our school building and will use that knowledge to design events they won't be able to resist and deliver advertising strategies that continue to draw them in.
Ex #2: Bullying Incidents
Mission Statement: We will create an "Upstander Team" to conduct a survey of all students to determine the types of bullying they experience; train all staff members on the various types of bullying that happen in our school; and train teachers on the curriculum on being an Upstander. This curriculum will be taught on an ongoing basis to each incoming class and reinforced through proven-effective marketing materials throughout the year. We will monitor the effectiveness of this effort through informal and formal analysis on a monthly basis and modify our approach accordingly.
Can you see how if you went straight to your mission without first articulating the problem and vision you could be shooting for something other than the proverbial moon? Now you have a mission that is clearly connected to solving a real problem and you know where you hope to land. That's the start of a solid project.
With this stage complete, everyone on the team will be on the same page regarding what the project is all about. There will still be plenty of questions -which is great, because questions are exactly what you want these statements to generate. If your problem, vision, and mission statements are well constructed they should start generating questions that will be answered in the next post in this series, "List Milestones".
How is your project going? Tom would love to hear about it!
To read the previous posts in this series, please click on the links below:
Introductory Post: 25 Steps to Small Project Success
Project Step #1: Create a Problem Statement
Project Step #2: Create a Vision Statement
"Project Step #3: Create a Mission Statement" by Tom Armstrong. 2016
Originally published on LinkedIn.
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