How to Become a Mission-Driven Organization

Stop what you are doing right now and read your organization, school, classroom, business (or personal) mission statement. Don’t have one? Start writing one.

A good mission helps your organization say YES to the right things and NO to the wrong things—from individual behaviors to big financial opportunities.

Here’s ours:

To accelerate and amplify innovations in teaching and learning

Here are three ways we are thinking about our mission in everything we do:

1. Kick off meetings with team member “show and tell.”

We start our staff meetings with something we call Smart Review. This is a time-tested tradition at Getting Smart. Each staff members has a rotating responsibility to share something they have read, watched, learned, and/or find interesting with the team. This models that we’re always learning and that everyone has an equal part in shaping our organization. We have had recent Smart Reviews on why we collaborate, how to thrive in all we do, and the importance of gratitude.

2. Conduct meetings and include mission feedback.

At the end of our weekly staff meetings, we are now concluding with something we call Smart Feedback where we reflect on our time together. Our driving question:

Was our “meeting time” time well spent? And how will we know?

We will know if the time is well-spent if we are talking about our work as it relates to our larger mission. Often, we go on a gut feeling: “That meeting was a waste of time.” OR “That was a really great meeting.” Either way, our gut feeling may not be validated by the larger group. We may be overthinking our own contribution (or lack thereof) and we may be relying too heavily on personal biases.

By spending some time reflecting on our meetings, we are able to see how we are individually contributing to conversations that deepen our understanding of our own individual work as well as the collective work of the team, and we even notice how and when we get sidetracked. (Small talk can be constructive because it helps build community and camaraderie. But small talk can also be a huge time waster. And as an organization lead, it’s hard to justify how a whole lot of small talk would relate to a company, school, organization, or class mission statement).

How to conduct meetings to include Mission Feedback

  • Conduct your ________ (daily, weekly, biweekly, monthly) team meeting.
  • Make sure your mission statement is printed at the top of your school/organization’s meeting notes.
  • Have a rotating person whose responsibility at the meeting is to conduct a Mission Feedback session at the end of the meeting.
  • Make sure the feedback includes making sure everyone present (whether in person OR on Skype, phone, etc) had a chance to speak- and that all voices were represented
  • Include specific feedback for team members who deepened understanding of the team’s work based on the mission statement
  • Comment on whether meeting started or ended on time and provide any pluses (things that went well at the meeting) and any growth areas (things that could be better next time).
  • The person doing the Mission Feedback should take notes throughout the meeting to give summary feedback (3 minutes) at the end.
  • The person giving the Mission Feedback has the last word. After the Mission Feedback concludes, the meeting is over. (The person giving the Mission Feedback shouldn’t be a strong participator during the meeting so that he/she can take notes on the meeting process).

3. Conduct a mission review.

A mission review is a time to obtain input from each team member about the organization’s mission. Here are the steps for a mission review.

Step 1: Ask each staff member, “What is the most significant word in the company/organization mission statement and why?”

Step 2: We then created a Wordle with our responses.

Step 3: We gathered great quotes about our work.

Step 4: We shared them at a staff meeting. Here are a few quotes about the Getting Smart mission:

“Every part of our mission—everything we do—should grow out of an emphasis on learning (learning ourselves, sharing what we learn with the field, seeing our clients as learners, formal learning in in classrooms, etc)”

“Without passion for what you are doing it’s just work, not a calling or a mission.”

“The word community communicates that we have a collective responsibility to everyone’s work.”

“Our whole team is aligned with our mission and that we’re keeping that mission top of mind in all of the work we do.”

“[We] focus on the topic of learning and become experts in that field and for our clients.”

“The work we are doing is already being done across the spectrum and we are seeking to grow it and sustain it while encouraging innovation.”

“Improvement is doing things better; the real opportunity set is around doing things differently. The world is rapidly changing and this is where the impact potential is. We focus on innovations. We do things differently.”

We want to hear from you about mission statements? Love them? Hate them? Don’t know what to do with them? In order to do things differently, we deepen our work by reflecting on our mission. Conduct a mission feedback session or a mission review, or start Smart Reviews at your meeting- and then let us know how it went!


For more on how Getting Smart works with organizations to help meet the vision, mission, and goals of the organization, see our Services page to learn more about our communications and strategy work, and check out our recent publications. We work with organizations that are looking to accelerate and amplify innovations in learning, helping organizations create access to innovative learning opportunities for all.

Bonnie Lathram

Bonnie Lathram is a student advocate and former teacher.

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