Every organization needs a purpose statement. This tool explains what a purpose statement is and provides examples. It includes a process for developing a purpose statement and four questions that need to be answered to develop a strong purpose statement.
Download the PDF – “Developing a Purpose Statement”
Purpose Statement Definition
A purpose statement captures succinctly why the organization exists and what it does. It should be memorable enough so that everyone connected to the organization can remember it and use it.
A purpose statement is one corner of the triad that forms the foundation of a healthy organization. The other two corners are values and the vision. (LRI offers tools that show how to develop values and visions.)
We encourage companies to develop a purpose statement rather than a mission statement. A mission statement tends to be a hodgepodge of purpose, values and vision, resulting in a lack of clarity and focus. A solid purpose statement, on the other hand, can be easily used as a benchmark for decision-making and planning. It can also be used to build morale – and gain support and understanding inside and outside the organization.
Purpose Statement Examples
Here are some well-executed purpose statements. Note how crisp, succinct and memorable they are:
3M: Our purpose is to solve unsolved problems innovatively.
Merck: Our purpose is to preserve and improve human life.
Walt Disney: Our purpose is to make people happy.
SETI Institute: Our purpose is to explore, understand, and explain the origin, nature, prevalence and distribution of life in the universe.
Fannie Mae: Our purpose is to strengthen the social fabric by continually democratizing home ownership.
Hewlett-Packard: Our purpose is to make technical contributions for the advancement and welfare of humanity.
Sony: Our purpose is to experience the joy of advancing and applying technology for the benefit of the public.
Wal-Mart: Our purpose is to give ordinary folk the chance to buy the same things as rich people.
By contrast, here is a traditional mission statement. Note how much harder it is to identify the core purpose.
- “Apex Systems supplies technically innovative software and hardware solutions to the OEM computer market that provide long-term benefits to our customers and our investors.”
Purpose Statement Planning Process
- In advance of a meeting of the planning team, have each member of the team complete the attached worksheet.
- At the meeting, review each response.
- Draft a preliminary statement incorporating factors that the group has decided should be included.
- Review and revise.
- Proceed to drafting value statements and a vision statement. (Purpose, values and vision are the foundation of the organization and its strategic plan.)
- Once the team agrees on a draft foundation, circulate to a wider audience of stakeholders for review and feedback.
Purpose Statement Planning Worksheet
Each member of the planning team should answer these questions in advance of the planning meeting.
- Why does our organization exist? What need do we fulfill?
- Why was the organization founded? What was its original purpose?
- In the future, will our purpose change significantly (if yes, then how)?
- What is the purpose of our organization?
Draft Purpose Statement
Instructions: Taking into consideration your thoughts above, what is the essential purpose of the organization? Boil it down to a single sentence that is simple and memorable. Bring this sheet with you and be prepared to share it with members of your planning team.