How to Develop a Mission Statement That Is More Than Words

Bob Daymon
Posted on March 1, 2007

Have you ever been asked to develop a mission statement for your organization or department? When you finished, did you feel like it was meaningful? Have you been frustrated when you have been asked to develop objectives and goals for the next year and felt it was just an exercise to say that you had met the requirement?

What if I could share some simple steps in developing a mission/purpose statement that were easy to understand and had some real meaning to it? Would you give it a chance? Well, I am willing to share if you are willing to try.

What is the mission?
First, think about the real reason your department exists as it relates to the overall organization. Second, when the rubber meets the road, what would gauge the success or failure of your department or organization? If you keep it this simple and keep your measures at a high level, then your mission statement will work for years to come. Let me provide you with a real-world example.

The mission of school districts across the country is to educate children and prepare them intellectually and socially to meet the needs of the community and the world. If we were to write a mission statement for a school district, it might read: “The mission of the ABC School District is to maximize the educational and extracurricular opportunities for students to develop and prepare them to be contributing citizens in their community and in the world.” If we use that as our organizational goal and take it out to the level of a department, we can build a mission statement that measures how well the department does at contributing to the organization’s purpose.

Reliable, safe, timely
At most school districts in Florida, a vehicle maintenance department exists for the purpose of ensuring that buses are maintained in a manner that provides reliable, safe and timely transportation for students. If we look at this as being the department’s main purpose, we can see reliable, safe and timely as the three criteria that can measure how good it is at fulfilling its main role.

So does this tie in to the overall mission/purpose of the school district? If we can’t get children to and from school because the fleet is breaking down regularly, then the child loses out on the educational process or a special event. What about the disruptions that occur when a bus is late?

What do we hang our hat on and measure? How about the total number of fleet breakdowns per year? We can do this several ways, but one of the most effective is by measuring the number of breakdowns per mile driven. Since school calendars change and so do the number of field trips taken, the total number of breakdowns alone doesn’t work.

Rating road-call response
Another way to measure the effectiveness of your program is in how timely you respond to a road call and get the students back on route. You might want to establish geographical zones for your bus routes, and measure within that zone on how quickly you respond and return the bus to its destination.

At one school district in Florida, this data showed the need to change the method of response. They used to respond with a service truck to make repairs while the students stayed on the bus. But they changed that process, sending out a spare bus, transferring the children to the spare and then fixing the bus on the road or calling for a tow truck. A tool box to make minor repairs was sent out with the spare bus, which was driven by a mechanic. This process change shortened the amount of time it took to get students to school. It also improved their safety, reducing their time at the side of the road. So, let’s look at how it all works together:

Here’s the mission of the ABC School District: “To maximize the educational and extracurricular opportunities for students to develop and prepare them to be contributing citizens in their community and in the world.”

Now, ask yourself how you as the vehicle maintenance department maximize the educational and extracurricular opportunities for your students. Here’s the vehicle maintenance department mission: “To provide reliable, safe and timely student transportation.”

Is the mission being met?
A reliable, safe and timely bus will maximize the educational and extracurricular opportunities for students. This is how the vehicle maintenance department contributes to the overall mission. How do we know that they met their mission? Below are methods to track the effectiveness of the program as it is currently designed.


  • Tracking the number of miles driven between road calls. This is a measure of reliability. Again, we need to track more than just the number of road calls because conditions such as school calendars and number of events change.


  • Tracking the number of accidents due to mechanical failures. This is a measure of safety. Notice that this does not include accidents caused by the public or the driver unless they were due to a reason that the vehicle maintenance department could control.


  • Tracking the response time to put the bus back in route within geographical zones. This is a measure of timeliness. Remember, the bus may break down a good distance from a school and the variable in response time could differ greatly.

    This may not be the limit of your data collection and analysis, but it is where the rubber meets the road. Clean and reliable data is necessary for making good decisions. You must choose how much data you can properly manage.

    I hope this helps you develop a mission statement that works for your area. If you would like to ask questions, feel free to e-mail me at [email protected].

    Bob Daymon is supervisor of analysis and improvement at the School District of Manatee County in Bradenton, Fla. He is also a certified public manager.

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