A Mission Statement Must Be More Than a PR Tactic

By Dr. Seleem R. Choudhury

Each one of us has deeply held beliefs that motivate us to action.  This is part of what it is to be human.  It is embedded in our humanity to pursue virtue, or a habitual and firm disposition to do good. Our character is inextricably linked with virtue, because good character is built through the practice and habituation of virtues (Newstead, Dawkins, & Martin, 2019).  

It is no wonder, then, that mission-driven organizations have become so desirable to today’s workforce. Working for a mission-driven organization offers a powerful avenue for the exercise of virtues through the expression and implementation of positive contributions to society (Maciariell, 2006). 

I recently transitioned from NYC Health and Hospitals to Adventist HealthCare. During this transition process, it became abundantly clear that the organization’s mission is a determining factor before working in any organization. Both organizations have mission statements that align with my personal values and virtues. NYC Health and Hospitals, the largest public health care system has the mission “to extend equally to all New Yorkers, regardless of their ability to pay, comprehensive health services of the highest quality in an atmosphere of humane care, dignity, and respect,” and Adventist HealthCare, is a faith-based health system providing Christ-centered care to meet the need of quality and accessible healthcare for the local community by “extending God’s care through the ministry of physical, mental and spiritual healing” (NYC Health and Hospitals, 2021; Adventist HealthCare, 2021).

The importance of a compelling mission statement

At its best, an organization’s mission “defines and upholds” what an organization stands for (Craig, 2018). Several studies suggest that there is a positive correlation between mission statements and organizational performance. In fact, the highest performing organizations are often the ones with more comprehensive mission statements—speaking to corporate philosophy, self-concept, public image, and financial performance (Kadhium, Betteg, Sharma, & Nalliah, 2021; Bartkus, Glassman, & McAfee, 2006; Rarick & Vitton, 1995; Desmidt, Prinzie, & Decramer, 2011; Ranasinghe, 2010).

The mission statement of a healthcare organization is an essential strategic tool that captures an organization’s “enduring purpose, practices, and core values” (Trybou, Gemmel, Desmidt, & Annemans, 2017; Bart & Hupfer, 2004). Individuals are attracted to an organization as their personal motivation aligns with the mission and intrinsic factors meet individual interests. A compelling shared mission keeps everyone’s focus on the greater primary purpose and goal of the work they are doing. It also provides guardrails and direction for decision-making in times of unpredictability or conflict (Ansary, 2019). Collaborating between leadership and staff on how to unite and put into practice the organization’s mission is a sign of a truly mission-driven, successful and healthy organization (Trybou, Gemmel, Desmidt, & Annemans, 2017).

Finding the “why”

Simon Sinek, leadership guru and founder of SinekPartners, states: “The value of our lives is not determined by what we do for ourselves. The value of our lives is determined by what we do for others” (Sinek, 2014). 

A mission statement should articulate why you are doing what you are doing.  For example, NYC Health and Hospitals is “committed to the health and well-being of all New Yorkers” (NYC Health and Hospitals, 2021). This statement expresses the importance of community and how being part of a community can make us feel as though we are a part of something greater than ourselves. NYC Health and Hospitals’ why is to create a healthy community.  By starting there, the how of building a healthy community—social-connectedness, overall well-being, satisfaction in life, work, and play—all become clearer (Caulfield, 2015).  

Adventist HealthCare’s mission focuses upon faith, desiring to “extend God’s care through the ministry of physical, mental and spiritual healing” (Adventist HealthCare, 2021). It is faith that “gives people a sense of meaning and purpose in life,” or as discussed above, their why (Moll, 2019). A faith-based care approach understands the wholeness and health of a person through the ministry of physical, mental, and spiritual healing. 

Relationships are important to humans and a mission that supports connectedness speaks to the why. Close connection to the people, activities, etc., that we love yields feelings of happiness, contentment, and personal satisfaction with our lives (Sharry, 2018). There is more than sufficient scientific evidence to show that involvement in social relationships have a benefit upon health (Umberson & Montez, 2010). In healthcare, a mission statement’s emphasis on relationships, whether through community or faith, creates a connection and gives the organization a strong why

The benefit to organizations

A clear, inspiring mission statement is essential to the health of an organization. Without it, strategic planning of any kind is impossible (Alegre, Berbegal-Mirabent, & Guerrero, 2019).  Mission statements also show the intent and purpose of an organization, providing a roadmap and an element of predictability concerning whether opportunities should be pursued or services offered, and making expectations clear for executives and staff within the organization (Salehi-Kordabadi, Karimi, & Qorbani-Azar, 2020). It also determines what criteria would be most effective to measure achievement (Bryson & Alston, 2005).

Furthermore, the mission imbues the work of every single employee with meaning and purpose. It helps them see how their job fits into the bigger picture and gives them a why that will inspire them (Sinek, 2009). This inspiration is a core component of organizational performance. Data shows that the design of mission statements are crucial for organizations’ growth, profitability, and shareholder equity. 

However, studies also indicate that “almost 40 percent of employees do not know or understand their company’s mission” (McMillan). This suggests that leaders must embrace the task of helping employees view their work in light of the mission and understand how it contributes to the organization’s larger efforts.

A mission statement is essential to communicate the purpose and goals of an organization, and is crucial to success in effective strategic management (Hieu & Vu, 2021; Bart, Bontis, & Taggar, 2001). To be effective and inspiring, it should define the basic question of why the organization exists and what it hopes to achieve. A strong mission statement is a guiding light for the strategy and operations of the organization, attracting individuals whose virtues and motivation aligns with the organization, and paving the way for organizational success.

About Seleem R. Choudhury, DNP

Seleem Choudhury is an international clinician and operational executive with over 15 years of experience leading academic hospitals and health systems in community settings.  He writes about clinical excellence and entrepreneurism in healthcare at seleemchoudhury.com.

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