How powerful is a one-word answer? Very. (Okay, maybe not every one-word answer.) But if you want people to remember your message, the fewer words, the better.
I’m not big on fast food, but I found myself in a Wendy’s last Saturday, and after I finished my (surprisingly good) hamburger, I looked up and found this mission statement on the wall, a quote from the chain’s late founder, Dave Thomas:
All of Wendy’s spins off one word: FRESH
It reminded me of a story Chip Heath and Dan Heath tell in their invaluable book Made to Stick. Herb Kelleher, a legendary CEO of Southwest Airlines, once told someone:
“I can teach you the secret to running this airline in thirty seconds. This is it: We are THE low-fare airline. Once you understand that fact, you can make any decision about this company’s future as well as I can.”
Wendy’s employees have even less to remember. They only need that one word—FRESH—to guide their actions.
A one-word answer sticks
Companies tend to write wordy, multi-part mission statements. But the more ideas you present, the less memorable each one becomes. (The Heath Brothers discuss that bit of wisdom in their book, too.) When you’re tempted to add more ideas to your mission statement, stop writing and ask yourself a different question: What’s the mission of my mission statement?
If you answer, “To make sure every department and stakeholder feels included,” then by all means keep adding clauses and bullet points. And adjectives, don’t forget the adjectives.
But if the point of your mission statement is to give your people clarity about your expectations and goals, get out the red pen and start eliminating all of the extraneous stuff.
How much more power does one sentence pack? “We are THE low-fare airline.” Really, what else does anyone need to know?
And if you can boil your mission down to a one-word answer, even better.