Why mission statements are a waste of time

adrian ashton
2 min readSep 15, 2016

Any time you get involved with reviewing or creating a new organisation, someone inevitably asks (and probably rightly so), “but what’s our mission statement..?” — without such a focus, it’s very difficult to be able to get everyone working together, motivated and generally able to be better at what it is that’s being done.

But trying to define that elusive vision which provides the magic answer to unifying everyone, resolving disagreements over purpose, and enable you to easily tell the world what it is you’re about is rarely easy going.

You’ll find that you can easily spend hours (and even days) in consultations involving words, values, images, and so on, just to get to a collective agreement about the general focus of it. And then just as much time again trying to get the exact right words, in the right order (and with the right punctuation!)…

And all for what? Some inspirational statement that most people don’t even acknowledge the existence of, because their view of you is shaped by their experiences of interacting with you — how and what you do with them (as well as for them), and what they hear about you from other people.

What’s prompted me to embark on this seeming rant against the sacrosanct mission statement is that I’ve been invited to join a consortia, and we’ve just spent ½ day trying to agree between the 9 of us what our shared mission should be about… (and still only got it down to 3 options!). Surely we’d be better spending our energies agreeing the broad shape of what it is that’s united us in the first place, and then getting on and doing something to make the world a better place?

But what about me and my consultancy practice? I’ve often referred to having certain values that influence my approaches, so surely I have a mission statement too? Something aspirational, but also a bit vague and ‘woolly’ to make it easier for me to do the wide range of things that I do — so until the next time I review it, here it is:

“to not get caught…”