Why Mission Statements Matter

What is the purpose of your work? Your hospital or laboratory mission statement describes it. A mission statement defines in a single statement not only the purpose of work provided, but an overall goal. It answers the question, “Why do we exist?” Most importantly, it provides inspiration and a moral compass for employees, including those who work in your laboratory.

What is a Mission Statement?
An online business dictionary defines mission statement as “a written declaration of an organization’s core purpose that normally remains unchanged over time.” They are intended to clearly state what the organization thinks is important in services and customers, and communicate where the organization is going. A company’s vision statement, where it sees itself in the short- or long-term, arises from the strength of its mission statement.1

Another website for community organizers describes a mission statement as something that “sets the tone for your program, while motivating and unifying all partners in the program… An effective mission statement resonates…”2 The website emphasizes the need for core partners to be involved in developing the statement to understand why they are working together.

The website Investopedia connects the idea to line staff by stating that mission statements “serve a dual purpose by helping employees to remain focused on the tasks at hand, as well as encouraging them to find innovative ways of moving towards an increasingly productive achievement of company goals.” Large corporations will spend many years and millions of dollars developing these statements, many of which become as famous as their brands.3

If you look around your organization, you’ll see its mission statement on the company website, framed and hung on walls, on the backs of name badges, and other places. Does your mission statement pass the litmus test to lead and inspire?

Some examples of mission statements include Disney: “We create happiness by providing the finest in entertainment for people of all ages, everywhere.”4 Another is Google: “To make the world’s information universally accessible and useful.”5 And Ford Motor Company is: “We are a global family with a proud heritage passionately committed to providing personal mobility for people around the world.”6 These pithy statements provide a surprisingly big picture of what these companies do and who they serve.

It’s one thing for a billion dollar corporation to craft a simple statement describing their purpose. They are, in effect, doing so for many millions of existing and potential customers. Hospitals, by contrast, are smaller entities with what seems to be a predefined purpose in the minds of customers: heal the sick. Shouldn’t they all be about the same?

The goal of providing excellent patient care may be the same for all hospitals, but the mission of how this is accomplished reveals subtle differences in organizations as illustrated in Table 1. Sibley Memorial, for example, emphasizes the highest value for customers; Pennsylvania Hospital wants to expand access to underserved populations in its community; Clinton Hospital’s statement, by contrast, is to the point without qualifiers. All three organizations serve their patients but with different focus in response to community needs.

Table 1: Examples of Hospital Mission Statements

Hospital Mission Statement
Sibley Memorial Hospital,
Washington, D.C.
The mission of Sibley Memorial Hospital is to provide quality health services and facilities and the community, to promote wellness, to relieve suffering, and to restore health as swiftly, safely and humanely as it can be done, consistent with the best service we can give at the highest value for all concerned.
Pennsylvania Hospital,
We believe that Pennsylvania Hospital, the nation’s first hospital, has a responsibility to: Ensure access to superior quality integrated healthcare for our community and expand access for underserved populations within the community. Create a supportive team environment for patients, employees and clinical staff. Foster learning and growth through comprehensive academic and educational relationships. Exhibit stewardship and creativity in the management of all available resources.
Clinton Hospital,
Clinton, Mass.
As a member of a progressive healthcare system, we deliver high quality comprehensive services to the local and extended community with excellence, compassion and competence.

Compare these to your hospital mission statement. Does your mission statement accurately reflect the reason for your vision? Does it align with the how and why of decision making?

Crafting a Mission Statement
As you might guess, mission statements needn’t be just organization wide. Your laboratory, for example, may have a slightly different mission to help accomplish organizational goals that emphasizes outreach populations instead of the broader community. So long as you align your staff with the broader mission, it can be beneficial to create your own mission statement to lead and inspire your staff to success.

Business writer and consultant Susan Ward describes the process of crafting a mission statement as writing “a combination of what your company does and how and why it does it, expressed in a way that encapsulates the values that are important to you.”7 She outlines a three-step process of describing the what, how and why your work is done.

Your mission statement should also describe what makes your particular team approach unique. You may emphasize outreach, partnering with patients and families or progressive information technology solutions. Your laboratory’s blend of talent and resources will make your approach to providing patient care like no other, and your mission statement should reflect your uniqueness.

Arriving at this consensus of uniqueness with staff and customers alike gives your mission statement meaning for staff. Some of the questions your mission statement should answer are listed in Table 2.

Table 2: Questions a Mission Statement Should Answer10

WHY Why are we in business? Describe what keeps the spark that ignited your business burning.
WHAT What level of service do we provide? Saying “we provide the best” may be too vague; describe specifically what makes your laboratory unique.
HOW How do we differ from the competition? This is especially important when competing in overlapping service areas, for limited reimbursement dollars, or to recruit and retain talented staff.

Why Mission Statements Matter
Since a mission statement tends not to change, it may seem to grow stale and irrelevant with time. But mission statements matter when they resonate with staff, especially new hires who seek a fit in an organizational culture. As laboratory consultant Ginger Baker points out, “I find that the more clear, concise, and patient focused (at least for direct patient care), the more an organization is focused and moving in that direction. I choose the organization I work for based on these things and how I see the front line staff practice them.”8

Mission statements also matter, because at their best they lead and inspire existing as well as new employees. Business consultant Dr. John Demartini puts it this way: “A mission statement is not an idealistic, intellectual statement which sounds good for the people in the public… The mission statement of your business has to have heart.”9 This emotional connection between employees means greater empathy for customers, crucial to healthcare’s shared mission to heal the sick.

The power of mission statements to lead and inspire all employees to succeed in meeting organizational goals can be considerable. In specifying what makes your team unique, a mission statement can increase camaraderie and a sense of loyalty, defining the character and integrity of your organization. Crafting your laboratory mission statement with the help of your staff and customers is an important step in providing better patient care.

Scott Warner is laboratory manager, Penobscot Valley Hospital, Lincoln, Me.

References on page 2…


1. Business Dictionary web site. Mission statement. Available at: http://www.businessdictionary.com/definition/mission-statement.html. Last accessed: 11/3/12.

2. NORC Blueprints web site. Mission statements. Available at: http://www.norcblueprint.org/toolbox/mission_statement_guidelines/. Last accessed: 11/3/12.

3. Investopedia web site. Mission statement. Available at: http://www.investopedia.com/terms/m/missionstatement.asp#axzz2BBGDi3WE. Last accessed: 11/3/12.

4. Disney mission statement. Available at: http://www.samples-help.org.uk/mission-statements/disney-mission-statement.htm. Last accessed: 11/3/12.

5. Google mission statement. Available at: http://www.samples-help.org.uk/mission-statements/google-mission-statement.htm. Last accessed: 11/3/12.

6. Ford Motoro Company mission statement. Available at: http://www.samples-help.org.uk/mission-statements/ford-motor-company-mission-statement.htm. Last accessed: 11/3/12.

7. Ward S. How to write a mission statement. Available at: http://sbinfocanada.about.com/od/businessplanning/a/writemission.htm. Last accessed: 11/3/12.

8. Baker G. LinkedIn comment. Advance for Administrators of the Laboratory. Available at: http://www.linkedin.com/groups/What-do-you-think-mission-3733369.S.174724969?qid=55020489-d902-42e6-91b2-ed753fa23d07&trk=group_most_recent_rich-0-b-ttl&goback=%2Egmr_3733369. Last accessed: 11/3/12.

9. Demartini J. Building an inspiring business — the power of mission statements. Available at: https://drdemartini.com/writings_and_insights/building_an_inspiring_business__the_power_of_mission_statements. Last accessed: 11/3/12.

10. Entrepreneur web site. How to write your mission statement. Available at: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/65230. Last accessed: 11/3/12.

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