Spark #

The Power of a Mission Statement

In this Spark, you'll understand the importance—and components—of a shared credo or mission statement. "How can a handful of simple, forthright sentences make such a difference in a group’s behavior?"

Spark #
The Power of a Mission Statement
What We're Talking About

The principle we're discussing

Successful companies with a strong, unifying mission statement create daily focus and purpose for their employees. Why? Because these simple credos become ingrained in the minds of employees, like a sports team’s motto. 

Take the story of Johnson & Johnson’s recall. In 1975, company president James Burke sought to update the company’s credo. Burke saw the existing one as outdated—it didn’t resonate with the company’s younger employees or give them a shared sense of purpose. However, when Johnson & Johnson was forced to recall millions of Tylenol pills due a batch laced with deadly cyanide, the company’s mission came into stark focus:

“We believe our first responsibility is to the patients, doctors and nurses, to mothers and fathers and all others who use our products and services.”

Hear Alan Hilburg, President and CEO of HilburgAssociates, who led the Johnson & Johnson team in the Tylenol Crisis:

"The credo became our crisis plan. Just like your value statement becomes your crisis plan."

Why it Matters

Why this principle is important and matters to you

Having a shared language around purpose ensures a company won’t lose sight of the future or become bogged down by existential crises.

It took a tragic circumstance to give Johnson & Johnson a handful of words that would inform one of the hardest decisions the company ever had to make: recalling millions of pills at a cost of $100 million. In one night, Johnson & Johnson went from 34% market share to 0% market share.

But, because they’d sharpened their focus and purpose, the credo served as a lighthouse guiding them to shore. After the recall, Johnson & Johnson’s stock bounced back because they’d earned back public trust by answering the critical questions of who they were and what they stood for.

In 90 days of introducing new packaging, market share went beyond what it was previously--up to 46%.

How You Can Use It

This provides practical ways to apply learnings from this Spark

A company’s mission statement may have to be workshopped and fine-tuned over a long period of time. Once cemented, however, these credos don’t need to be subtle, mysterious, or overly complicated. Rather, they should be simple, obvious, and easy to repeat daily.

Navy SEALs are a great example. They echo the same mottos and catchphrases every day to stay aligned with one another. Successful cultures like the SEALs are relentless in both honing and repeating their mission, creating what Coyle refers to as  “high purpose environments.''

When Johnson & Johnson challenged their credo, it served to:

  • Create a high-purpose environment, i.e. connect the present moment to a meaningful future goal
  • Use a single story to orient motivation: This is why we work. Here’s where you should put your energy.

Think about your credo, or mission statement. Does it start with why? Learn why that's important:


An opportunity to reflect on yourself and/or your team and how you can apply these insights

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