The organization’s mission statement represents the organizations best guess of how to best serve their target customers. The mission statement as a business hypothesis thus warrants frequent visiting by the board and nonprofit leadership team members to ensure the financial, human, and technological resources are having the desired impact. For better or for worse, organizational mission statements are instead often permanently grafted on to the static DNA of the organization. Organizational pivots in response to changing environmental and customer needs is not only thus restricted it remains unlikely. For those organizations who seek to pivot only a fraction are able to navigate the hurdles of organizational change.

Organizational pivoting is strengthened when the leadership team is able to produce a convincing business case for change. The business case is so crucial for strengthening the organization’s capacity to change that it remains a common element of most (if not all) change management methodologies. The challenge with creating a convincing business case for change is that it often reflects values, insights, goals, and terms that are in conflict with the organization’s status quo. Most change management efforts fail to meet their goals because of member commitment to existing norms.

Mission Statement as a Business Hypothesis

The best mission statements are those that are both specific and general in their communication of goals. The result is the culmination of several statements that allow for the organization to pivot and adapt to changing customer needs and opportunities as they surface. In many cases the organizational cultures becomes implicitly viewed as synonymous with the organization’s mission statement.

Although the mission statement requires the organizational culture in order for the mission to be realized it should be the long-term vision conveyed in the mission statement that should be taking the lead. Unfortunately this is not always the case, as many nonprofits face obstacles, resistance, and limitations to change management efforts. The customer is served less effectively as the evolution of the organization’s mission statement stalls.

A Mission Building Canvas –

Mission Building Canvas

Mission Building Canvas

The mission statement as a business hypothesis should be able to adapt as new technologies, strategies, resources, processes, and best practices are discovered. The organization’s business model, value chain, and later recruitment and department efforts should later be structured to support and test the business hypothesis.

  • Define broad customer segments or groups
  • Define broad targets and goals
  • Define broad values, guidelines, and networks to achieve these goals
  • Define ‘improvement’ as a series of stages
  • Define ‘impact’ as being part of a larger, aligned, and interconnected system

How is your organization supporting an agile mission building process? Leave your comments below.