I'm going to admit something here...I don't usually create a mission statement for my projects. It doesn't matter how early I get involved as either an employee project manager, a contract project manager, or an independent consulting project manager...I have only created mission statements on rare occasions and that was only when I was required to do so.
If you are one of those dedicated project managers who usually creates a mission statement for your projects - have you ever thought about this question? Maybe it's forced on you as part of your organization’s project management methodology or maybe you've just always created them but never questioned why or if you really needed to do so. Or perhaps you don’t create them for your projects and never thought about whether you should or what use they would have.
In the beginning
At the beginning of the project there are many documents that we could – and often do create – to help formalize the project process and document for the project team and the customer where the project is going and how we’re going to manage it. Documents like a change control plan, a risk management plan, a communication plan, and even a project charter can be helpful documents to have in place as you kickoff the real work on a project.
Some you do if it’s a large project, some you do if senior management demands it, some you do if your customer wants it, and then some you just do because it’s good to have in place and it gets the project started off on the right foot. What about a project mission statement? Is it important? Does it help? What is its purpose?
Helping us know how to get there
Let’s look at it this way: “If you don’t know where you’re going, how will you know when you get there?” This questions sums up the reason some projects go astray. If we lived in a perfect world we’d always have perfectly detailed, accurate requirements to work from. But that’s almost never (ok, never) the case, so the mission statement is there to guide us through some of the questions we have pertaining to requirements and helps us to ask the right questions during the engagement to get a better understanding of the requirements. If we know where we’re supposed to be going, then we can ask for clarity on those requirements that are supposed to get us there when their direction doesn’t seem clear – or even seems contradictory.
The mission statement is developed to prevent confusion on the part of the project team concerning the direction the project should take. After it is created, the mission statement can be used to set goals and objectives, to make decisions, and possibly even to select team members if more are needed or if the team isn’t already constructed. Basically, when it’s done right, the mission statement becomes the go-to document going forward – sort of a litmus test. This seems obvious; yet many organizations seem to forget the mission statement after it is written. Perhaps it is because project managers tend to then go into the firefighting mode and forget the mission. It’s easy to lose site of the mission and began to fight the issues – after all, how many projects have you managed that haven’t been pushed into that firefighting mode from time to time?
A company mission statement is put in place to let customers as well as everyone in the organization know what the business is all about. It lets them know what the end goal is and how they intend to get there. It keeps them focused and on course. The project mission statement is similar in that it is put in place to keep the project team and all associated parties focused on what the project set out to accomplish. It is there to keep everyone focused on the desired outcome and to hopefully help the project team achieve the greatest possible level of customer satisfaction.
We often hate to plan. But I think we all know by now that when the proper amount of planning and documentation takes place, the project usually goes much more smoothly. The project mission statement can be helpful...no question about it. Is it necessary? Still your call...or the call of your management or customer. But don't skip doing the right amount of planning for your project.
What about our readers? Mission statement...yes or no? Why? Share your thoughts.