Copyright © Louis Schmier and Atwood Publishing.

Date: Mon 3/8/2004 4:11 AM
Random Thought: Personal Mission Statements, II

I'd like to share a few reflections about personal missions statements over the next couple of day. Let's start with this one.

Let's be honest. Most institutional mission statements are annouced from "on high" or emerge from the efforts of an institution's planning process.

Institutions, however, don't have mission statements; people do.

Let's be even more honest, and my Dean, VPAA, and President may not like this if they read it. Both my institution's current mission statement and proposed new mission statement aren't all that important to me. Sure, I understand all the time and energy that has gone into formulating a new one. And, deeply being involved in the strategic planning initiative, I am certainly empathetic to why they must exist and how the tight, demanding time frame in which they must be formulated constricts the process. There are practical demands and requirements of the Chancellor's office, Board of Regents, legislators, Governor, faculty and staff, donors, parents, students, and the general public. But, a mission statement is not the solution to a problem or the meeting of a requirement or a "one shot" fulfillment of a duty, or the result of a planning process.

It's not what mission statements say that are important; it is what they do. I'll repeat that. It's not what mission statements say that are important; it is what they do.

And, my institution's mission statements, old and proposed new, don't do a thing for me. Neither is important to me. Neither turns me on. There's a disconnect between either one of them and me. Neither is rooted in my adamantine core. They're ideas, even important ideas. They offer direction, even important direction. But, they don't create a shared commonality with me. They're not that powerful, inspiring, moving, impressive force in my heart. Why? They're so institutional. They're a search for a "strategic vision;" they're not personal visions. They say, "This is why VSU has or will have these organizations, programs, and policies." Mine is so personal and says, "This is why I exist, why I am alive. Bring it on!"

My institution's mission statements belong to someone else and being asked to fine-tune the language isn't a committed buy-in. My institution's mission statements aren't personal. They're not mine! They're not visceral. They're not inside me. They're not me. They're not interlocked, interconnected, integrated, interacted with my avowed purpose, vision, value system, and mission. No, I am moved and directed by my articulated personal mission statement that for years, literally years, I have struggled, agonized over, lost sleep about, cause me many a tossing and turning, pondered, walked on, searched for, written, rewritten, trashed, written, rewritten, and am still honing. It is my discovered, formulated, and articulated "why" that is important to me. That is because my personal mission statement is me; it is mine. It is my "true north." It is my purpose, my vision, my values, my concerns, my hopes, my beliefs, my faiths, my aspirations. It's my inside coming out. It is something very meaningful; it's in my heart and soul. In the spirit of Deuteronomy 6:6-9, it's in my heart and soul. I wake up with it, talk about it, share it, teach it. It shines through my eyes; I wear it on my face; it's in my voice; it's in my step. It's my aura. I spend my days and deal with every day, day-to-day relationships with it consciously in the forefront of my mind, heart, and soul. It is my mantra.

Institutions don't have mission statements; people do.

I fondest hope is that my institution's new mission statement is only the first step in long, arduous, and time-consuming building of a "will you follow me" shared vision that will connect with the disconnected. For a genuine caring about a mission or vision statement that seeks commitment rather than merely compliance, must have a commonality. It must be rooted in collected personal senses of missions and personal visions. The members of my institutional community must buy into it. Each must have a sense of ownership. That is the way to make an institutional mission statement so compelling that it stops being a concept, people begin to see it as if it exists and is alive, and no one is willing to give it up. Otherwise, it ultimately will be meaningless and powerless, little more than the unread first page in the institutional bulletin or various handbooks, and will be banished to the mission statement's graveyard where it will merely gather dust on a lost shelf unread and forgotten.

         Make it a good day.


         Louis Schmier      
         Department of History
         Valdosta State University
         Valdosta, GA  31698                 /~\        /\ /\
         912-333-5947              /^\      /     \    /  /~\  \   /~\__/\
                                 /     \__/         \/  /  /\ /~\/         \
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                        -_~    /  "If you want to climb mountains,   \ /^\
                         _ _ /      don't practice on mole hills" -    \____

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