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Practitioners’ GuideThe MissionStatementExerciseThis tool has been created to supportyou in doing three things:• Thinking about distinctivenessand how it applies to yourinstitution• Learning more about thedistinctiveness of otherinstitutions• Understanding how to explore thevalue of distinctiveness further"It was such a simple but compellingexercise and had such impact, Iwanted to run it with my SMT"Helen Lloyd Wildman, Pro Vice-Chancellor and Director of CorporateServices, University ofWolverhamptonWhat it isThe Mission Statement Exercise is atool designed to help you to thinkabout distinctiveness in general, andto evaluate the distinctiveness of yourinstitution’s mission statement inparticular. It can be used to encouragethe senior management of yourinstitution to critically assess themission statement as an expression ofyour institution’s distinctiveness. Inturn, this can lead to a debate aboutthe extent and nature of yourinstitution’s distinctiveness, and theways in which you communicate it.No-one imagines that their missionstatement says everything that thereis to say about their institution, but itis important that it encapsulates notwhat the institution does but what itscore purpose is and what it offers tostakeholders. Ideally it is a piece ofcommunication that enablesstakeholders to readily understandwhy they might want to engage withthe institution.So this tool enables you and yoursenior colleagues to understandwhether your institution’s missionstatement does that, in an engagingway. By presenting colleagues with aseries of anonymised missionstatements from different institutions,you can find out (amongst otherthings) whether they can identify theinstitution they belong to, i.e. howdistinctive they are.The backgroundMission statements tend to becarefully crafted statements which arearrived at in an attempt to describethe institution’s objectives. However,all too often, they tend to be quiteinternally focused – they express whatthe institution does, more than thebenefits that it provides tostakeholders. For example, amanufacturer of cars does notdescribe itself in such a literal way,when seeking to convey its corepurpose. It is more likely to describeCreated on: 23 March, 2011


Practitioners’ Guidediscussions you have.• Developing a new mission statement.Almost every book on strategicmanagement will at least touch onmission statements. Here arereferences from two, to get youstarted:The Ashridge mission model sees amission as consisting of fourcomponents:i. An inspirational definition of whatan organisation is there forii. The organisation’s strategyiii. The policies and behaviouralstandards, defining how managersand employees should behaveiv. The beliefs that constitute anorganisation’s culture and underpinits management styleFrom: Strategic Management &Organisational Dynamics by R. DStacey. Prentice Hall (5th edition,2007)• A strategically revealing missionstatement incorporates threeelements:i. Customer needs, or what isbeing satisfiedii. Customer groups, or who isbeing satisfiediii. The company’s activities,technologies and competencies,or how the enterprise goes aboutcreating and delivering value tocustomers and satisfying theirneeds.… One of the roles of a missionstatement is to give theorganisation its own specialidentity, business emphasis andpath for development – one thattypically sets it apart from othersimilarly situated companies.From: Strategic Management,concepts & cases by A. A.Thompson & A. J. Strickland.Irwin/McGraw-Hill (13th edition,2003)Additional resourcesDeveloping mission statements:There are likely to be many books onstrategic marketing in your university’slibrary which will include sections onmission, vision and values. If you have abusiness or management school in yourinstitution, they will almost certainlylecture on mission, vision and values inorganisations.There are also books that have collatedmission statements of large corporations,which might give you inspiration ordemonstrate what to avoid.One example is• ‘101 Mission Statements from TopCompanies’ by Jeffrey Abrahams. TenSpeed Press (2007)There are many academic papers aboutmission statements, but here are two thatmight be of interest:• Palmer, T. B., Short, J. C. (2008)Mission Statements in U.S. Colleges ofBusiness: An Empirical Examination ofTheir Content With Linkages toConfigurations and Performance,Academy of Management Learning &Education, 7(4)454–470• Williams, L. S. (2008) The MissionStatement. Journal of BusinessCommunication, 45(2)94-119Created on: 23 March, 2011


Practitioners’ GuideFind out morewww.distinct.ac.uk has a growingresource section.Get involvedIf you have a case study, report, orother resource you would like to sharewith colleagues in the sector we wouldlove to hear from you. Please contactus at:contact@distinct.ac.ukIf you would like to distribute thiscontent please contact the projectteam.© 2011 Distinct in Higher EducationCreated on: 23 March, 2011

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