Recently I was asked to develop a mission statement. By the time I was brought in many people had been involved in the consultation process. The result was a draft which it was my job to develop and fine tune. But this was more than a straightforward writing task. I was being brought in as an independent, neutral, fresh pair of eyes. With a licence to ask that pertinent question – what exactly do you do, again?

There was nothing wrong with the draft – it was an accurate statement. It reflected the contribution by every individual, and recognised the goals of the organisation as a whole. The trouble was in an effort to be both comprehensive and complete, it was long.

And it wasn’t accessible. A new joiner to the organisation, being given the mission statement would have told them what behaviour was expected.

The choice, as neatly summed up in Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath, came down to a) accuracy b) accessibility. ‘If a message can’t be used to make predictions or decisions, it is without value, no matter how accurate or comprehensive it is’.

A mission statement describes what is being done, day-to-day, and why. A vision statement is what will happen as a result.

In other words, if my mission statement was: “I aim to promote the use of words to achieve their full potential in a range of settings, with outcome-orientated action; collaborating to achieve satisfactory solutions to complex issues.” This would be accurate(ish)…OK I made it up, but you get the point.

More accessible and therefore useful is “I help people put their ideas into words. Words that sell.”

Sometimes less is more