Mission statements are like corporate Hallmark cards. Often written in a bland cursive font and plastered conspicuously at headquarters, these aspiring epigrams are pretty words in Air Supply -- like rhythm. Sometimes they're created at a retreat in the woods, between the trust fall and the passing of the speaking stick. Vigorous fights over semantics last for hours, even months. Then you end up with some variation of the jargony quasi-poetry above.
For three years, I sat on an advisory board at my alma mater that helped shape the university's entrepreneurship program. At every board meeting, someone would say, "So why are we here?" Then someone would read the mission statement (it was packed with words like "commitment" and "empowerment"), and even the most dramatic James Earl Jones -- like vocal effect couldn't help motivate us to think more clearly. Because it was neither clear nor useful -- and if it wasn't useful, why the heck were we arguing about it?
Mission statements don't have to be dumb. In fact, they can be very valuable, if they articulate real targets. The first thing I'd do is forget the exact words and remember the reason for a statement in the first place. In 2006, Wilson Learning surveyed 25,000 employees from the finance and tech industries. Respondents said they wanted a leader who could "convey clearly what the work unit is trying to do." The same applies to mission state-ments, which set the tone. Employees, vendors, and clients don't get stoked by fuzzy mission statements. They will line up behind concrete goals.