Mission Statements: A Compass for Effective Decision-Making

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Mission statements provide a clear, concise, and written representation of a practice’s philosophy. Today, many practices have mission statements, but the way they are crafted and utilized for decision-making varies from practice to practice.

Mission Statement, Vision Statement, and Motto: All Together Now
Mission statements, vision statements, and mottos all represent important values of a practice, but they differ a little.

Mission Statement
Jeffrey Abrahams, author of 101 Mission Statements from Top Companies: Plus Guidelines for Writing Your Own Mission Statement, says, “Every company, no matter how big or small, needs a mission statement as a source of direction, a kind of compass that lets its employees, its customers, and even the stockholders know what it stands for and where it’s headed.”

The mission statement represents the current state of the practice. It states the purpose for the business and includes the core values, while keeping the vision in mind. In her book Practice Made Perfect: A Complete Guide to Veterinary Practice Management, Marsha L. Heinke says the mission statement is “…guided by the core values and core purpose, but is more specifically focused on identifying the goals and objectives of the practice.”

When crafting a mission statement, identify the following elements:

1. What do we do?
2. How?
3. Why?
4. For whom?

Example: Cox Animal Hospital provides quality patient care for companion animals and exceptional service for our clients in order to generate higher levels of the animal-human bond. We provide this by investing and believing in our team. We strive to maximize team relations and performance by providing financially rewarding compensation and training.

This example includes the 4 elements:

1. What do we do? Provide(s) quality care for companion animals and exceptional client service.
2. How? By investing in, believing in, and training the team.
3. Why? To generate higher levels of the animal-human bond.
4. For whom? Patients, clients, and team.

Vision Statement
A vision statement and a mission statement are often confused. The vision statement represents the future, the ultimate goals of the practice.

Example: Cox Animal Hospital strives to be the leader in companion animal care and client service within South Bend, Indiana.

“Both the vision statement and the mission statement describe what you would like the organization’s life path to look and feel like,” Heinke says.

A motto is also sometimes mistaken for a mission statement. The motto is a catchy phrase or slogan associated with the vision and mission of the practice.

Example: Cox Animal Hospital makes it happen.

Team Contribution and Collaboration
When crafting a mission statement, consider who will write it. Will the owner take sole responsibility or will the whole team share the experience?

Practice owners may feel compelled to create a mission statement themselves, because it seems easier than collaborating with the team members, but author Stephen R. Covey said, “Everyone should participate in a meaningful way—not just the top strategy planners, but everyone.”

When team members assist in developing the practice mission statement, they believe they are part of making the vision a reality. Abrahams, in another of his books, The Mission Statement Book: 301 Corporate Mission Statements from America’s Top Companies, says, “Mission statements can inspire employees across an organization and remind them of the purpose of the company and each individual’s role in achieving the goal.”

After deciding that the team will craft the mission statement, consider how to capture their perspectives.

Achieving Best Outcomes
Strategic thinking is a critical component of a healthy practice, especially during uncertain times. Business literature suggests having a third-party consultant or meeting facilitator assist with this process. This allows the entire practice team to work together to craft a unified mission statement, without the pressure created by traditional roles and relationships.

Crafting a mission statement doesn’t necessarily require comprehensive strategic planning, but the sessions do need to be well-organized and the facilitators must be prepared so that the best outcomes are realized. (See Crafting a Mission Statement: The Team Approach, for guidelines on crafting a mission statement with the practice team.)

Once the team has collectively developed the mission statement, it must become a living document and tool that is referred to when making practice decisions.

A Navigation Tool: Keeping the Mission Alive
The mission statement’s real value is determined during its development and is used to make practice decisions. The mission statement is intended to be a meaningful tool that helps navigate the practice toward the vision and should be consulted when making any decision, large or small, regarding the practice. Leaders should discuss openly and often how decisions or initiatives relate back to the mission.

Heinke stresses the importance of utilizing the mission statement when making decisions: “The mission statement, along with the core values, will guide practice leadership decisions.”

A Blueprint for Success
A successful mission statement is not just a collection of fancy words or a document hanging in a frame. It is a useful tool that serves as a continual reminder of practice values and purpose.

Abrahams says it well: “Thinking of a mission statement as part of a company’s overall blueprint for success—and communicating that to employees, customers, and the public—gives the company a head start on achieving that success.”


Suggested Reading

1. 101 Mission Statements from Top Companies: Plus Guidelines for Writing Your Own Mission Statement. Abrahams J—Berkeley: Ten Speed Press, 2007.
2. Practice Made Perfect: A Complete Guide to Veterinary Practice Management, 2nd ed. Heinke ML— Lakewood: AAHA Press, 2012.
3. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change. Covey SR— New York: Fireside, 1990.
4. The Mission Statement Book: 301 Corporate Mission Statements from America’s Top Companies. Abrahams J— Berkeley: Ten Speed Press, 2004.

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