Can a Mission Statement Be a Picture?

“We have to find a purpose that has us?” Rachel was confused. “I’m not sure I understand. We are trying to do strategic planning for 2011. I get that we have to define our purpose. I know that purpose will drive the rest of the plan. But you make it sound like that purpose has to be some powerful compelling force. We bake bread.”

“Exactly!” I said. “What kind of bread do you bake?”

“Well, we bake all kinds of bread.”

“So, why do you bake bread?”

“I don’t understand.” Rachel’s head was moving from side to side. She wasn’t disagreeing, but she was having difficulty with the question.

“Why do you bake bread?” I repeated.

“Because our customers buy it.”

“And, why do your customers buy it?”

“Well, bread is consumed at almost every meal in some form or another. People eat a lot of bread. It’s a comfort food.” Rachel was trying.

“Why is bread so important to people?”

“It’s just part of life, bread goes with everything. It’s universal. Around the world, all cultures eat bread. When people get together, they break bread. It’s almost a bond between people.”

“And do you bake quality bread?” I asked.

“The best,” Rachel smiled. “Hot out of the oven, warm, soft, drizzle a little honey on it, just the smell of it makes you feel good.”

“Rachel, you are on the right track. Somewhere in what you describe, is purpose. Somewhere in there, is vision. Somewhere in there, is mission.”

“It’s funny you should say that,” she said. “In the hallway is our mission statement, only it’s just a picture, of a steaming loaf of bread emerging from an oven door.”

What is your company’s mission? If you were to take a picture, what would it be a picture of?

6 thoughts on “Can a Mission Statement Be a Picture?

  1. Daniel Rose

    This is a little off topic, but your post reminded me of the story of the three bricklayers who were building a cathederal.
    They were all asked what they were doing. The first answered “making a living”, the second “laying bricks”, and the third “building a cathederal”.
    They’re all doing the same task, but the mission is different.
    Thanks for the post!

  2. michael cardus

    utilizing imagery to words is a challenge that faces many executives. Often times speaking with leaders they can explain what the purpose is, when you ask them to write it out the purpose suddenly becomes not as clear.
    Challenging a person to explore the image starts the process, placing the pen to paper w/ a goal in mind move it to transference.

  3. Uday Arur

    Using imagery to trigger the process of creating a mission statement is a good idea, but would it work with every individual? Since our individual learning process depends on the how much each of us is visual, auditory and kinesthetic, it might be useful to run a learning style inventory on the individual wanting to do the exercise.

    Also what kind of core values emerged from the picture of the steaming loaf of bread for your client?

    1. Tom Foster

      Thank you very much for pointing out the different ways we “see” the world. The steaming loaf of bread is not a values statement, but characterized as a mission statement. The point is that there can be a higher purpose for work than meets the eye. Just talk to Bonnie at the mid-mountain restaurant in Aspen (above the Ajax Express). She takes her bread very seriously and the world is a better place for it.

  4. Uday Arur

    I am sure Bonnie is a committed baker, but I was referring to your point of the client’ s challenges of articulating the essence of what they do in the form of a mission statement. Regarding the values, what I meant was, does the loaf of bread help Bonnie in understanding her values as a baker?

    I value your experience with Bonnie and was interested in knowing what other breakthroughs you had through connecting the image of the loaf of bread to her mission statement.


    1. Tom Foster

      Gotta be quick. Stepping on a plane to Tucson. Thank you for pushing the envelope of this story. The point of the tale has less to do with articulation and more to do with looking beyond our daily tasks to see a larger purpose.

      They are calling my gate, gotta run.


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