Defining Strategy Statements

These defining strategy statements are optional written statements or phrases, common in business plans, useful in teams as statements of value and reminders. Do only the ones you want, and only if you are going to use them. They aren’t part of a lean business plan. When used correctly they can be valuable; but they are rarely used correctly. I see so many business plans containing essentially meaningless words collected together as mission or vision. 

A mission statement should define what the business wants to do for at least three sets of people: customers, employees, and owners. It should not be just meaningless hype words. A mission statement that works can be very useful as a reminder to all about the key values and overlying purpose of the business. A mission statement that sounds like any mission statement for any other company is a waste of time.

A mantra is a single phrase that defines a business. Guy Kawasaki, author of Art of the Start, recommends mantra instead of mission. As examples, he suggests that the mantra of  Wendy’s fast food chain should be “healthy fast food.” Nike, the athletic shoe and clothing manufacturer, should use “Authentic athletic performance.”  And Target, the retail chain, could call “Democratize design” its mantra.  Those are all his, however, not the various companies’. In Palo Alto Software, we reviewed our planning and focused on “helping people to succeed in business.”

A vision statement projects forward into time three or five years and presents a picture, like a dream, of how things should be. Usually a vision statement works best as a story about the future, with your business as the key element in the story. Where is it, what is it doing, how big is it, what’s special about it. This works for some businesses, but not all.

Business objectives should be hard-baked, concrete, specific, and, above all, measurable. Objectives may include sales growth rates, employee headcount, customers in the database, percentages of gross margin or profitability, units sold, and so on.

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