How to Measure Your Organisation’s Mission

September 6, 2016 by Stacey Barr

Mission statements really ought to state the ultimate purpose of an organisation – its desired impact on its customers. To know if an organisation is fulfilling its mission (and isn’t that important to know?), it needs to be measured. But most mission statements are immeasurable.

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What makes mission statements immeasurable is essentially the way they are written. If you’ve read my blogs and books over the years, you know I accuse weasel words of making our goals immeasurable. We first have to overcome that problem, and write out mission statements more clearly and specifically, like these:

  • “To prevent cruelty to animals by actively promoting their care and protection.” — RSPCA
  • “To make Australia the most desirable destination on earth.” — Australian Tourism
  • “To make Australian sport stronger — to get more people playing sport and to help athletes pursue their dreams.” — Australian Institute of Sport

These mission statements are measurable, because they clearly spell out the impact they want to make, and for whom they want to make that impact.

An excellent example of measuring the mission

The National Alliance to End Homelessness (NAEH) in the US also has a very clear mission:

The Alliance works toward ending homelessness by improving homelessness policy, building on-the-ground capacity, and educating opinion leaders.

And to prove how well they are fulfilling this mission, they used measures like these:

  • Average Length of Time Persons Remain Homeless
  • Median Length of Time Persons Remain Homeless
  • Percent of Persons Who Return to Homelessness
  • Number of Homeless Persons
  • Percentage of Homeless Persons Who Gain or Increase Income
  • Number of Persons Who Become Homeless for the First Time

Using measures like these, it’s much easier to prove the impact that change programs have. To contribute to ending homelessness, one change program raised average incomes of people from $910 per month to more than $2000 per month within 18 months. And another change program for assisting people to remain in permanent housing exceeded their target of 75% and achieved 77%.

A framework for measuring your mission

The key to measuring a mission in the simplest way is to describe tangibly the outcome we want. Following the basic 4-step framework that the NAEH uses, here’s how to do it:

  1. Who is the base population for your goal? Describe specifically who or what your organisation is trying to impact.
  2. What did you hope to achieve with this population? Describe, ideally in language a 10-year-old would understand, what that impact looks like.
  3. Within this population, how many persons achieved it? This is the kind of data you’ll capture to quantify the impact.
  4. And if you want a rate: Divide the number at Step 3 by the number of those in the base population from Step 1 (if you know that population size).

Would you like more detail?

Read more on page 25, and an example on page 26, of the report A Toolkit on Performance Measurement for Ending Homelessness here.

Back in 2009 I interviewed Bill Sermons about all this, when he was the Director of the Homelessness Research Institute, part of the National Alliance to End Homelessness. So if you want to dive into more detail, listen to the interview here.

DISCUSSION:

Do you measure your mission? If you do, please inspire us by sharing your mission and its measures. If you don’t, please share what makes it hard to do it.

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  1. Hamad says:

    “To maintain price stability, and to promote integrity and stability of the financial system consistent with sustained growth of the national economy” by just seeing this mission it proves that we are not measuring it. the reason is vivid that it is full of weasel words. I think we will have to advice the planning team to change it so that we have a measurable mission which articulates what we want to achieve and how.

    Hamad Khamis
    Bank of Tanzania
    senior planning officer

    • Stacey Barr says:

      Thanks for sharing this, Hamad! It’s a great example of a hard-to-measure mission. I wonder how it would read if the weasel words were replaced with simpler words? Sure, there might be more words in total, but perhaps many more people would understand it, and be inspired by it?

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