Mission – Values – Guiding Principles

When employees and volunteers connect to the organization’s mission, values or guiding principles in a personal way, they become more motivated, committed and fulfilled. This connection occurs by engaging people in the development of these foundational statements. Facilitators help groups do this through thoughtful dialogue and creative processes.


The mission is a short (about 15 words) philosophical statement of the organization’s reason for being. It answers two questions:

  • Who are you?
  • What purpose do you fulfill in society? (your reason for being)


Values are ideals that give significance to our lives. They are reflected in our priorities and we call upon them regularly. When a group defines the values they want to uphold and works on upholding these values every day, they are more likely to return to work each day with a deep sense of satisfaction and high productivity. An organization has to know what their values are to be able to live by them.

Guiding Principles

Guiding principles are a series of short statements that guide group behavior. They allow the group to self correct when dysfunctional behaviors such as gossip, back-stabbing and withholding information occurs. When people openly agree to abide by their own rules of behavior, this creates a climate of safety and builds trust.

There are benefits of developing mission, values and guiding principles:

  • Reduces absenteeism
  • Keeps the culture healthy, productive, and open to change
  • Connects key stakeholders to the organizational culture
  • Keeps the organization vital and in touch with the current environment
  • Aligns actions and behavior with overall purpose and values

When is it time to create or review your mission, values and guiding principles?

If any of the following conditions applies to your organization, it may be time to develop or update your mission, values and guiding principles:

  • Recent substantial organizational changes
  • High percentage of new staff, Board, or other key stakeholders
  • Start-up of the organization, or a new division, team or project
  • A number of people are asking “why are we doing this?”
  • There is a climate of mistrust, discouragement or low morale