Creating at least a 1-2 sentence Project Mission Statement will help make sure everyone’s aligned on the goals and methods for the project.
By now you’ve heard and seen numerous reasons to focus on your project’s intake process. Creative Briefs are great, necessary things, but let’s be honest: sometimes in smaller or quick-turn projects we need something a little lighter, something that can help the project team stay focused from the beginning.
Creating at least a 1-2 sentence Project Mission Statement will help make sure everyone’s aligned on the goals and methods for the project. It’ll help you control scope creep and could even save you from having to stop halfway and ask, “why are we doing this again?”
In my view, every single project, regardless of scale, can be helped with a mission statement. In larger projects, you can summarize the goals and objectives from the creative brief into something that’s actually memorable for the team at large. It can help make sure all of your projects actually tie to your business mission. And in larger projects, jointly creating a project mission statement is also a good team-building activity.
What is a mission statement?
In business, a mission statement concisely explains the fundamental purpose of the organization, or why it exists. It is present-focused, defines the target customer, and often covers expectations of how the work gets done. A project mission statement works the same way, just within the scope of a smaller team and set of actions.
Writing one also adds value to the creative team’s role – business partners are used to thinking in terms like missions, visions, and objectives, so actively advocating for or writing a project mission statement creates opportunities for the creative team to work with business partners on their own terms.
How to write a project mission statement
At its simplest, a mission statement for a project needs to tell the team WHAT they are creating and WHY. Often that also needs to encompass a reference to a specific audience, or WHO they are creating the thing for.
- What: The deliverable, or output to be created (or updated, or reworked) by the project – whether it’s a thing, service, event, etc.
- Who: What target audience is the end user of this product/project – are they internal or external? (Can be optional if it’s obvious, but I’m a strong proponent of at least considering whether it should be included or not.)
- Why: How will this output create value for the target audience? What is the business justification for this project? (If it ties to any specific business objectives, you may even want to reference them here.)
The statement should be at most a sentence or two. It must be simple and easy to remember so you can keep it in mind as a guiding principle throughout the project – yet inspiring enough to motivate the team to completion. Ultimately though, it has to be whatever is the most useful for your team. If it’s so long and flowery that nobody bothers to read or comprehend it, it wasn’t really worth spending even a few minutes to create one.
As with any statement of purpose – whether it’s a sentence or a full brief – make sure all of your stakeholders agree that it captures the essence of what they want to accomplish with the project. It can’t and shouldn’t cover every nuance of every objective that each individual involved in the project has, but your major stakeholders should agree at a high-enough level that it at least keeps everyone heading in the right direction.
A good formula to use if you’re stuck is “To [do what thing?] that [does what/why] for [whom].” Here are a couple of examples:
- To (what?) create a new intake form that helps (who?) sales managers (why?) save time by inputting leads from the road more quickly.
- To (what?) update our landing pages with regionally focused photography and language options (why?) to support our company’s goal of expanding our reach (for whom?) in Latin markets.
In the examples above, the project may have come in as a more generic request such as “New form for sales leads” or “Add language options to landing pages,” but having a more in-depth mission statement both allows the creative team to add value (e.g., regionalizing the landing pages with additional photography, or doing other back end optimization that pre-fills certain fields for sales managers on the road), and wards off scope creep (oh, updating the color scheme won’t really help speed up the form, so maybe that should be part of a different request…).
Keep your statement front and center, and update as needed
On larger projects, put your project mission statement right up at the top of the brief so it can remind team members at a glance of the what, who, and most importantly, why. For projects where the entire “brief” is a task in a project management system (or heaven forbid, an email), make the mission statement the task title or email subject, or at least put it at the top of the description field to keep it top of mind.
One final consideration: projects can and do evolve. If you find yourselves veering totally away from your project mission statement, it may be time to back up and create a more comprehensive brief after all. But if you can quickly align with your project sponsor and update the mission statement with just a quick conversation, it’s definitely worth doing so. This will not only keep you and the project sponsor on the same page, but also help communicate the scope change to the rest of the team as well.
Kim Conder is a strategic in-house design agency leader and branding expert with more than 10 years’ experience leading teams. She specializes in optimizing the creative process and maximizing the business potential behind memorable brand experiences.