We wanted Nike to be the world's best sports and fitness company. Once you say that, you have a focus. You don't end up making wing tips or sponsoring the next Rolling Stones world tour.
I still remember the moment when the impact of the mission statement hit home. I was sitting in the audience at a business seminar. The speaker asked us to shut our eyes and point in the direction that we thought was true north. After a few moments, he asked us to open our eyes.
Fingers were pointing in every conceivable direction! Some of the participants were pointing to the front of the room, others to the back, and there were even a few who were pointing to the ceiling. There was no consistency whatsoever across the group.
This simple exercise showed me that when a group of people lack clarity, its members can interpret reality in many different ways. Of course, if the speaker had indicated true north before we closed our eyes, then our fingers would have all been aligned.
In the same way, a mission statement provides your organization with its true north. It aligns your people in the same direction and reminds them, in the simplest terms, of what you're trying to do and where you're trying to go.
Knowing—and making others aware of—your company's true north is particularly critical in this age of the information avalanche. The ceaseless barrage of noise on almost every conceivable topic can ...