Introduction to Mission Statements, Operating Charters, and Personal Charters

Chapter Information

Reading Scale: 11.8   Read Time: 15 minutes   Speaking Time: 21 minutes

It is always surprising to me that so many businesses keep most of their employees in the dark about the company’s business objective or the CEO’s vision for growth. Everyone shows up for work and does what he or she was hired to do in his or her own corner of the building, picks up a paycheck, and goes home. Few people outside top senior management know the big picture or understand how any one particular job or initiative affects company objectives.

Mission Statements: Hallmark

It’s true of any group effort that if you don’t all know where you are going, you have a slim chance of arriving anywhere at all. Management consultants recognized this fact and began suggesting that companies develop corporate mission statements to help their employees and shareholders understand their ultimate goal. The results are often long, flowery, well-written prose. For example, here is the published corporate mission statement of Hallmark:

We will be the company that creates a more emotionally connected world by making a genuine difference in every life, every day.

We believe our products and services must enrich people’s lives.

That creativity and quality—in our products, services and all that we do—are essential to our success.

That innovation in all areas of our business is essential to attaining and sustaining leadership.

That the people of Hallmark are our company’s most valuable resource.

That distinguished financial performance is imperative to accomplish our broader mission.

That our private ownership must be preserved.

We value excellence in all we do.

We value high standards of ethics and integrity.

We value caring and responsible corporate citizenship for Kansas City and for each community in which we operate.

These beliefs and values guide our business strategies, our corporate behavior, and our relationships with business partners, suppliers, customers, communities and each other.

Pretty as a Hallmark card, isn’t it? I’m sure the senior management and a gaggle of consultants invested significant time and thought into developing this corporate mission. It sounds nice and it makes you feel all warm and fuzzy about the company.

Now, step back for a moment and think. If you were the senior management at Hallmark or any other company, would you publish your company marching orders for the entire world to see? Do you think that Hallmark’s competitors at Gibson Greeting Cards or American Greetings might read Hallmark’s annual report?

Corporate mission statements are a smoke screen! They’re simply feel-good statements developed for public consumption. Inside the company walls, employees often operate with a different agenda and a different mission.

Working Mission Statements are strategic tools to focus employees on the ultimate objective and clearly map out the road to success. They define “what you do” in a single crisp, clear and memorable sentence. Hallmark’s working mission statement might be something like this:

We will be the company that creates a more emotionally connected world by making a genuine difference in every life, every day.

You might think this statement says as much—or as little—as the long, public version. But this statement makes clear that facilitating emotional connections is the number one priority. Best of all, every employee could memorize it in 30 seconds. The purpose of having a working mission statement in the first place is to give employees an understanding of the strategic goals of the company. Think about how Hallmark has evolved over the past several years from just a greeting card company to also being a TV channel. Both are marching to the same drummer—creating a more emotionally connected world by making a genuine difference in every life, every day.