Identifying the Mission – The Critical First Step to Fostering an Innovative Culture

Authored by: Dr. Laura Jekabsons McNeil is a 15 year Master Examiner for the Florida Sterling Council

How does a mission statement create an innovative culture?  Something so simple as a mission statement on the surface appears to be too mundane to elicit an innovative call to action, yet it does.

Leaders are accountable for producing positive business results yet they cannot produce results by themselves.   Leaders need resources, teams and most importantly a leadership framework that ensures resources are aligned, collaborating and armed with decision making capabilities that serve the organization’s mission.   Leaders also need to focus on sustaining positive trends and competitive positions.  This requires continuous improvement through continuous change that is motivated by open minded leaders capable of engaging and listening to the entire workforce.

Not only should a mission statement be meaningful to the workforce, it needs to be meaningful to customers – clarifying expectations they have for the organization, as well as clarifying the organization’s expectations of itself.  Mission statements clarify what the organization is in business to do each and every day and as such, serve to unify efforts.  With an easily understood, meaningful and repeatable mission statement, daily decision making at every organization’s level is clarified for the workforce.  Performance expectations and goals are much easier accomplished with clear alignment across all departments, workforce groups and stakeholders.

There is a lot to consider when drafting a mission statement:

  1. Will it be easily understood and meaningful for each individual that reads it?
  2. Does it clarify what you are committed to providing your customers?
  3. Does it clarify organizational expectations?
  4. Will it distinguish your organization from competitors?
  5. Will it serve as a decision making guide for workforce, managers, stakeholders, current and potential customers?

Mission statements define organizations, serve as decision making criteria and clarify expectations for customers.  As such, they also serve as essential cornerstones for establishing the organization’s culture, vision and focus on innovation.  When employees are clear on expectations they engage with their work at a more meaningful and deeper level.  They adapt what they do to serve that purpose.  The by-product of this behavioral shift produces innovative outcomes.

How have mission statements introduced innovation for some organizations?   (Source: State of Florida Sterling Council, 2015)

  1. Cape Coral Hospital Mission Statement:  Caring People, Caring for People
    1. Nurses implemented Care Blankets for patients – improving customer satisfaction rates
    2. A light placed above patient doors illuminates when a patient presses their call button, which prompts a call to action.  ANY employee (including the CEO) if walking past a lit door will enter and ask how they can assist the patient – improving patient satisfaction rates
  2. Miami Dade Department of Health  Mission Statement:  To protect and promote the health of all residents and visitors in Miami-Dade County Florida.

By clarifying this mission for the workforce, a number of community outreach initiatives have resulted from employee involvement with community needs, events and by acting against customer feedback – such initiatives include:

  1. Communities Putting Prevention to Work to address teen and adult obesity
  2. Introduction of Fast Track Clinics to reduce impact to local partner hospitals as an alternative for acute and emergency care for under or uninsured.
  3. Marketing campaigns such as a Make Healthy Happen Miami to encourage healthy living in Miami-Dade through the support and strengthening of sustainable policies, systems and environments.
  4. Miami Matters which is an educational and support program provided to all residents and visitors to address healthcare concerns

Here are some examples of Mission Statements:    (Source:, November, 2015)

  1. TED: Spreading Ideas. (2 words)
  2. Smithsonian: The increase and diffusion of knowledge. (6 words)
  3. USO lifts the spirits of America’s troops and their families. (9 words)
  4. Livestrong: To inspire and empower people affected by cancer. (8)
  5. The Humane Society: Celebrating Animals, Confronting Cruelty. (4)
  6. Wounded Warrior Project: To honor and empower wounded warriors. (6)
  7. Oxfam: To create lasting solutions to poverty, hunger, and social injustice. (10)
  8. Best Friends Animal Society: A better world through kindness to animals. (7)
  9. CARE: To serve individuals and families in the poorest communities in the world. (12)
  10. The Nature Conservancy: To conserve the lands and waters on which all life depends. (11)
  11. JDRF: To find a cure for diabetes and its complications through the support of research. (14)
  12. Environmental Defense Fund: To preserve the natural systems on which all life depends. (10)

Dr. Laura Jekabsons McNeil is a 15 year Master Examiner for the Florida Sterling Council and Graduate Faculty for the University of Phoenix for the past 14 years.