Getting to WHY: Igniting the Purpose of Your Organization

By Chris Ihrig

Well-defined mission statements create a rallying point for a team.  

The process of reaching a collective agreement about the identity of the team can take some time in the early stages but it prevents missteps and miscommunications later on. Undefined teams fall apart.  Team mission statements must support the mission of the overall organization.

The best mission statement is aspirational; it will expand as progress is made. Achievement-oriented mission statements eventually stop inspiring a team, no matter how well defined and how far they move beyond the starting point.

For example, the Apollo mission statement, “To perform a manned lunar landing and return the mission safely to Earth” had tremendous energy and talent working together to achieve the mission. But once the primary mission was accomplished, the energy dissipated.

Do you see how a mission statement with a finite goal will lose momentum once that goal is achieved? Momentum is lost once the goal is achieved. It takes time to get buy-in on a new goal.

Compare the Apollo mission statement to a timeless mission statement that expands as progress is made, “To explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, and to boldly go where no one has gone before.

If you’re Scotty, leading the engineering team on the Starship Enterprise, your team’s mission statement could be “To ensure the safety of ship and crew by maintaining and developing the best and most reliable propulsion system possible.” This mission statement expands as new technologies are encountered in those strange new worlds. How inspirational is that compared to “Maintain the engines in safe condition to ensure the safety of ship and crew”?

Define your team’s mission using definitions that will endure the test of time. Instead of “We will be better than X.” use “We will strive to be the best.” The way you define your team is up to you. The first step is defining what is important. Defining your team’s “Why” helps define the things that are most important to your team.