Does your team need a mission?

Published by on October 28, 2014.
Your team's mission

Mission is the reason your team members get out of bed every morning. It answers the question, “Why are we creating software?”

A mission statement should describe why your team exists; it’s your higher purpose.

How does this apply to creating software? Your team is made up of human beings, and they’re going to be motivated by having a raison d’être. Yes, we’re building software, but why? Why is it important?

As an example, I like Ryan Carson’s mission for his Treehouse team:

We’re bringing affordable education to the masses, which equips them to change their lives.

As a leader, having a well-defined mission will help you:

  1. Attract the right people to your team: when you can articulate your purpose, you’ll attract people that care about that purpose. These people want more than a paycheck—they want to make a difference.
  2. Work with purpose: as individuals, we get motivated when we’re presented with a mission that excites us. What would make a developer care about well-tested code? A mission they believe in! Are we pushing pixels, or are we creating a difference in the world?
  3. Focus: a mission answers the “what and why” for your team; anything outside of that is a distraction. Keeping this front and center will help your team move forward, towards a common goal.

This is the mission statement we developed at Sprintly:

We’re bringing software business intelligence to managers: making development processes transparent, and helping teams deliver high quality software on time.

How to craft your team’s mission statement

In his paper “Industrial Firms and the Power of Mission,” Christopher Bart provides a framework for writing a good mission statement. It has three parts:

  1. Key market: Who is your ideal customer? What is your niche?
  2. Contribution: What service are you providing? What pain are you solving?
  3. Distinction: What makes your approach different? What makes you unique amongst your competitors?

Don’t hire an outside consultant to do this work for you. Instead, get your team involved. Book a day to ask the above questions, and craft a statement together.

For your mission statement to be effective it should be concise, free of corporate lingo, and should specifically outline what makes your team unique.

A good place to start is with this template:

We’re giving (people) (this benefit) so that they can (do this).

What do you think of mission statements? Have they been helpful for you and your team? What’s the best one you’ve seen? Leave a comment below!