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Does Your Team Have a Mission Statement?

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Is your team juggling conflicting requests? Is your Product Owner struggling to decide which customer's to serve and which to ignore for now? Does it seem that everyone has a different agenda?

In "Make Your Mission Possible" Johanna Rothman, Management Consultant, suggests that the lack of a mission statement is making it difficult for your team to say no. Johanna tells a story of company whose sales staff promise additional reports with understanding that this is exactly what the team doesn't need.

In the story Janice, the manager and her team leads discuss the work they do now and other work that they think needs to happen in the company (even outside of their group). Next they examine the work that they're doing but don't think they should. Based on all of this they right a mission statement that says:

A good mission explains what we do and don't do. It establishes the boundaries of our work and explains how our development group fits into the organization. A great mission will provide reasonable and measurable objectives for our work so other groups can see what we are responsible for--and not responsible for.

Along the way Johanna's suggests that we don't write promises of 24hr turn around into the mission statement unless there is staffing and organizational support for it.

In Got Mission? Neil Bourgeois, a Software Developer, observes that most mission statements are written by the wrong people. Neil believes that a team should write its own mission statement helps the team take ownership of it. In Neil's case his PM brought the team together for a brainstorming session to help them

  1. List what the needed to accomplish
  2. How to accomplish it
  3. Render the key concepts from those lists into a few words or sentence.

In Neil's case many of Agile values popped out during the first two parts, for example Communication, Feedback, Simplicity, Responding to Change, Customer Collaboration. In the end the team crafted a mission statement "Positively impact every project."

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