Point A Mission Statement
i hate mission statements. The business press is clear that i am a fool in this believe because virtually everything written about mission statements harps on how important they are, how they help direct and guide people in the company, how you can’t really succeed unless you have a carefully crafted mission statement.
i have been involved with well meaning board members who drafted or recrafted mission statements. i have been involved with dozens of organizations (both for profit and non profit) which have mission statements. i have never once seen a mission statement used to solve a problem or direct a decision. As best i can tell, they get written (often by too many people) and then they get ignored. They are, as best i can tell, a complete waste of time.
But people love them, including clever people who i like and work with. When we started talking about forming a new urban high achievement oriented community – which is currently called Point A – there was a call for a mission statement. i just let go of my resistance and helped make it happen.
Point A – Mission and Commitment
To create a community that:
- Inspires and supports high achievement by the community and its members.
- Propagates itself by spinning off new communities.
- Balances the success of the community with the mandate to radically transform and improve the world.
High achievement means significantly contributing to constructive, extroverted, endeavors. Bringing out the new world that lives in our hearts and making a post-revolutionary paradise for ourselves is not enough. We seek change towards greater humanity and sustainability not just in our lives but in the lives of everyone. The commitment is to be a force pushing for positive change in the world.
High achievement requires high communication. Effective decision systems are of necessity rich/high bandwidth communication environments. On the personal relationship development side we will need to agree on some tool kit which could be transparency tools or landmark or something which MBAs use that we dont know about. The commitment is to be in a dynamic conversation about the needs and desires of both the individuals and the group and be committed to action and experiments which fill those needs and desires.
Communiversity: Incubating new communities requires an openness to people outside the residential collective and a willingness to teach and mentor them and learn from them. This part of the project could specialize in assisting with launching economic engines for groups. Modeling successful resource and money management will thus be a high value. The commitment is to look for allies who want to start innovative communities and figure out how we can mutually reach the goals.
Responsibility for more than our footprint. We propose that the community improve the world, and to do so the community must be successful in its mission which will require intelligent tradeoffs.. We recognize our obligation to be advancing improvements which have great leverage. Sharing systems, libraries, labor banks, sustainable manufacturing, clean energy production, worker coops and gift based economic models all likely have a role in this. The commitment is to do an analysis of impact and accessibility and figure out which of these systems makes the most sense to deploy first and what the plan is for likely future systems implementation.
11 responses to “Point A Mission Statement”
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I like it. This is the clearest statement I’ve seen yet of what Point A is about.
Mission statements are only useful if people actually use them to remind themselves and others of what they’re trying to do.
And you’re right. A lot of people in organizations just ignore them. I hope that Point A can use this to build something that will really create change in the world.
Having worked in the nonprofit world for a couple decades, I agree that mission statements (as well as those for the organization’s vision and objectives) are total rubbish. And so much hand-wringing goes along with the pursuit of crafting that perfect document. I’d much rather start with a constitution, one that can be amended as the organization’s mission, vision, and objectives evolve.
The question is, does the organization have a purpose? If so, it can be written down. Obviously it’s easy to get this wrong, and write something down that isn’t really the purpose. Or to think you know what the purpose is and be wrong.
But someone else might say, if you don’t know what your purpose is, what are you doing? And if you do know what your purpose is, why can’t you write it down so that everyone can agree, especially new people?
Purpose changes? Then change what you wrote.
In some sense, to argue against some kind of written purpose is to argue against all written agreements. Which, there are some reasonable arguments for. But a written purpose for a group of people isn’t any stranger than written anything else for a group. And it’s just as easy to get off track and write down a bunch of stuff that doesn’t actually represent your interests.
For what it’s worth, I have seen mission statements used well (ultimately resolving disagreements because there was a single thing to point to) and mission statements used poorly (either full of meaningless words, or saying the wrong stuff that then derailed the group into arguing about the words, or following a path most of the group didn’t actually agree with).
It’s a tool – it can be used well or badly. It takes attention (and intention) to get it right.
I used to work for California NARAL. I don’t recall exactly what our mission statement said, but I do remember it being full of generic verbiage that did nothing buddy mussy what we all knew we were doing. Everyone involved knew what we were fighting attempts to make safe abortions illegal or inaccessible. Period. Whether it was standing up to Operation Rescue, the Family Research Council, or any legislative body, the mission was clear. The mission statement was not.
So, it sounds like your mission statement should’ve said “we fight attempts to make safe abortions illegal or inaccessible.” Except that this was such a simple and well-understood purpose, it may not have been necessary to write it down.
Not all organizations have it so lucky, such as the ones I can think of where having certain things clearly articulated in their mission statement helped resolve internal disputes.
Certainly, Point A is figuring out what it is, and a huge part of this is communicating this among current and future interested participants. Whatever you want to call that thing that communicates, it’s going to be a useful thing. It will probably involve words. Those words will probably be written.
“Whatever you want to call that thing that communicates, it’s going to be a useful thing. It will probably involve words. Those words will probably be written.”
Love that assessment!
As a professional facilitator of vision statements among other agreements, the humorous images here cracked me up.
My basic take on writing vision statements is posted at http://treegroup.info/topics/visioning.pdf. I agree with Ken that such statements can be used well or they can collect dust. Here’s one example of how to get productive use from a set of values statements: http://treegroup.info/topics/values-into-action.pdf.
A conversation with Pax many years ago led me to reflect on my own experience with such statements, as a group member rather than facilitator. I concluded that the ones i’ve seen with the most ongoing meaning and aliveness for groups are those that go beyond stating a purpose to articulating a set of core operating principles. See the samples from Eugene Bio Car Share, Breitenbush, and the International Co-op Principles on this page http://treegroup.info/topics/sample-vision-statements.pdf.