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Mission Statement Analysis
By Joe Bouchard
Published: 04/27/2015

Notepad The following is an installment in "The Bouchard 101", a series featuring "Ice Breaker's" designed to promote training awareness and capabilities in the corrections industry.

Sometimes, an icebreaker can be a skull breaker as well. But that is not meant in a literal and sadistic sense. What we are talking about is creating a quick intellectual challenge for those in the classroom. Some may contend that it is not wise to demand too much from the audience when warming them up. However, this is not always true.

There are instances where we want to start a training session in an abstract manner. This is useful if the intent of the training is to tap into the analytical skills of the students. In the interest of initiating a conceptual mindset among participants, here is a way to raise the bar early in the training day.

Materials needed:
  • 1 marker board
  • some markers
  • scrap paper
  • a real or invented mission statement
The trainer presents the classroom with a mission statement on the marker board.

Sample introductions

Trainers can tailor an introduction to fit the mood of the audience, the basic climate of the department, or his or her own inclinations. Here are a few samples:

“Mission statements define an agency. They are the broad statements that show the reader how we intend to perform our jobs as a department. Our mission statement is found at the beginning of the very first policy directive. It is written on the board. Consider it. Is this something that represents what we do? What is good about it? What needs revision?”

Or

“Today you have a chance to change the department. You are given a copy of a mission statement, the statement that is the roadmap to our operations. It was written twenty years ago and is in need of revision. How would you as a policy maker change the words? What should remain as appropriate? Let’s look at the good and bad about this statement.”

Or

“The Director of your agency wants to make sweeping, positive changes in the culture of your workplace. As a start, the statement of purpose policy is coming under scrutiny. In making a revision, the Director must modify the mission statement and is seeking input. What ideas would you give to the Director?”

Or

“Let me ask you this: Did you ever notice that there are some people that do allot of complaining and never offer answers? They seem to have a problem for every solution. But, most of us are willing to search for a better way of doing things. Let’s suppose that we have a mission statement that is broken due to old age and complex language. How would you fix it?”

Students are then asked to consider the meaning of the words. They are instructed to list all the things about the mission statement that they would change. After a few minutes of silent analysis, students are to write down as many good things about the statement as possible.

Then, a recorder can volunteer or be appointed. With the trainer guiding the audience in questions, the recorder will compile ideas from the audience on a marker board. The items, of course, will be written in either a “pros” or “cons” column.

Group dynamics can be studied during the sharing of ideas. Sometimes, it is useful for a trainer to witness who the players are in the group; the talker, the thinker, the affirmer, the denier, the cynic, etc.

How to prompt participation:

Perhaps the audience is not forthcoming with voluntary answers at first. It is up to the trainer to facilitate a little discussion. Here are some questions to ask the class.
  • What works well in this statement?
  • Is the language too formal or too colloquial?
  • Is the word order good or is it clumsy?
  • If it seems too long, what can be eliminated from the word count without altering the meaning?
  • Will it have longevity or is the wording time-specific?
It seems natural that criticism flows easier that praise for most people. When there is a lull in comments, as the group what they dislike about the statement. This usually nets many more comments. When this is done, turn toward the merits of the statement. Balance the negative with the opposite side of the coin.

Pitfalls and solutions:
  • The fleet will go only as fast as the slowest ship. Explain the ground rules so all will understand. Accept that this may not always be a fast-moving exercise.
  • If you do not state what a mission statement is, you may have problems with people grasping the process. In your introduction, you may explain that a mission statement is a statement that is a roadmap to our operations. Mission statements define an agency. They are the broad statements that show the reader how we intend to perform our jobs as a department.
  • Some people may not wish to participate. Take the load off of them by initially splitting the group into a few committees to look at the mission statement.
  • Some may be put off by this group activity. You may obtain a few samples of mission statements and show students a few ways to dissect them.
Crafting your own sample statement:

You do not have to use your own department’s statement. You may not have permission to scrutinize your own statement. It may not be under official scrutiny. But it is easy to create your own working mission statement.
  • “Frankenstein” a sample from various bits of others found on websites. Do not limit yourself to corrections statements. Go also into the private sector
  • Plant your own grammatical nightmares
  • Place some spelling errors
  • Put in a logic flaw
One sample mission statement:

Following is a mission statement that does not exist in real life. Its structure was derived from an existing statement and components came from others. You will not find this verbatim on any web site or in any state capitol. Trainers may use this, complete with its planted flaws, to inspire discussion. The mistakes are intentional. A simple spelling error may inspire an analytical avalanche.

This agency, by using constitutionle standerds and correctional principals, will keep citizens of this state secured by cooperating with all aspects of law enforcement, and work with the sentencing courts, carrying out sentences given to convicted adult felons in a fiscally sound, benevolent manner.

Some of the errors and other concerns are:
  • “Consitiutionle” is misspelled.
  • “Standerds” is also misspelled.
  • The wrong “principals” is used.
  • “State” could be capitalized.
  • Word flow is inconsistent: tenses are mixed: secured, work, carrying.
  • The statement is a 44 word long rambling paragraph. The intended reader has no time to rest. This could easily be broken down into two or three sentences.
  • There are no catch phrases. This is not very memorable.
Conclusion:

Mission statements are crucial building blocks in any agency’s philosophy. Therefore, it is important for employees to consider them. And there are times that instructors need to get participants to think in a conceptual manner. The mission statement analysis exercise does this.

Joe Bouchard is a Librarian employed with the Michigan Department of Corrections and a collaborator with The International Association of Correctional Training Personnel (IACTP). He is also the author of “IACTP’s Corrections Icebreakers: The Bouchard 101, 2014”. The installments in this series include his opinions. The agency for which he works is not in any way responsible for the content or accuracy of this material, and the views are those of the contributor and not necessarily those of the agency. While some material is influenced by other works, all of the icebreakers have been developed by Joe Bouchard.

Visit the Joe Bouchard page

Other articles by Bouchard:


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