February 7, 2017

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Paul Zilz

Presidential Slogans and the Power of Mission Statements

If you are a United States citizen, you may recall memorable slogans used by successful presidential candidates: “Tippecanoe and Tyler Too”, “Happy Days are Here Again”, “It’s Morning Again in America”, “Change We Can Believe In”, and “Making America Great Again” to name a few. Those slogans are designed to tap into heartfelt hopes and desires of the electorate and create enthusiasm for a candidate as the slogan targets a central purpose why citizens should vote for a particular candidate.

What about your mission statement? Is it energizing and transforming? Does it clearly focus people on the essence of what you hope to achieve as an organization? Have you ever thought through whose role it is to define the results the organization is supposed to achieve and for whom they are to be achieved? Is it the board or Chief Executive who creates a mission statement that encapsulates these intended results and effectively “brands” the organization?

In organizations that use the Policy Governance system designed by John Carver, the board, as an informed agent of the organization’s moral and legal owners, is responsible for defining the difference the organization will make in the lives of people. The board does not “approve” a mission statement per se, as most of us are used to seeing that term applied.  In broad terms, the board defines the major areas in which the organization wants to achieve results. This is the strategic contribution the board makes.

The organization’s Chief Executive, to whom the board delegates achievement of these results, may in fact design a traditional mission statement that captures the essence of the results intended to be achieved. If the Chief Executive exercises that prerogative, he or she usually seeks to harness and focus the energy of staff, volunteers, and donors toward what the organization is doing to achieve the results the board has specified.

Clearly delineating the “lanes” in which the board and Chief Executive “drive” is a significant strength of the Policy Governance system. The power of this approach allows the board and the Chief Executive to work with clearly defined and complementary roles to ensure that lives touched by the organization are changed for the positive in a way the board intends.

A well-constructed mission statement, designed under the leadership of the Chief Executive can:

  • effectively brand the organization, setting it apart from other organizations, and
  • energize the organization’s staff, volunteers, and donors to achieve what the board, based on input from the organization’s owners, has determined should be the results the organization achieves

Thus, a powerful mission statement can serve as a means for the Chief Executive to focus achievement of the strategic results the board intends the organization to achieve on behalf of those for whom it governs.

For more resources to help your organization develop and achieve future-focused, strategic results for those you serve, click on the following pages:

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