A mission is the load to the bullet that won't miss the target. It is a brief but clear description of a task, fulfilled in the future. The benefits of a mission are huge: It leads through fiddly decision processes. It binds your staff to a team, which shares a challenge. It helps communicating your idea to everyone involved. It keeps you on track and prevents you from taking the wrong side roads.
A mission is not only for setting sails to your whole business, but also a powerful tool to single projects. I personally define them for all my private projects. It could be used in a wide range from huge startups to small business websites.
But how to develop that powerful, yet rarely used and still underestimated tool? In the following lines I will sketch up several questions out of four areas, that will help you to get a clue about what your mission looks like.
The main questions are rather simple, but the most important ones. Think about what you want to achieve with that website. Instead of defining general goals, try to be more specific. Gaining profit for example is not a goal but a result of generation orders of a certain product. If you have identified the goal, get deeper and ask yourself how this goal could be achieved. Maybe your website has many visitors (potential customers) but less orders (conversions) and you want to relaunch it. Then a part of your mission statement could involve mentioning the restructuring of your website which implies a flat hierarchy and clear actions as well as a good description of the benefits of your product without mentioning all these things directly.
What is the goal of my website?
How could this goal be achieved?
If a website already exists: Which advantages are meant to meet?
Why does my website make a difference to the internet?
Another field of questions lies in the target group. While it is easy to identify the target group of a junior football team, it could be quiet hard to identify it for a more unspecific site with general information like wikipedia. Therefore, you should figure out how much an influence the target group has to your mission. Older people may enforce problems with eye-sight or technical knowledge. A website which aims at older people should have a larger font with high contrast and maybe lesser boing-flips. In this case, mentioning the target group in your mission statement has a huge impact towards design and interactive concept.
A third sector of questions comes with your competition. Practically most upcoming ideas already exist in some form or another. Competition doesn't mean just more effort but also a great pool of ideas and case studies. One would be dumb not to use it. Be sure to have a look on your competition before defining your mission.
What is my main competition?
What do they offer? How?
How do they generate profit?
How can I outmatch my competition? (Which effort does it take?)
The fourth bunch of questions is a validation against the basic interests of your business. If your company already has a mission, vision or values, they should influence your mission statement as well. Make sure that your mission goes according to those three.
Almost done: You faced a great bunch of questions and should now have an idea of how your mission looks like. The next step would be to phrase it into a single or double lined sentence. Remember that a mission is as brief and clear as possible. Don't mix it with a Plan. A mission focuses on the “what should be done”, a plan decribes the “how in detail”.
You can start the sentence with a “We will…“ or “This project / website is going to…“.
Now you got a mission. But how to use it? Nobody involved in a project will even care about, if you don't do one thing: Hammer it into their brains by recalling it and using it on your own as much as you can. I try to put my missions on the top of every concept. I start my meetings with a short mentioning of “our mission”. I yield my decisions to it. I also try to encourage teammembers who make a decision and reason it with the mission and I force people to explain the project to others using it. That is unfolding the real power of a mission.
This article uses pictures from the Mario Wiki and which is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike License.