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The Asahi, one of leading Japanese newspapers carried a half page feature article titled “Brush Up Your English Proficiency This Year!” on its January 5 issue. In this article, a well-known English teaching expert emphasized the importance of setting the goal and roadmaps to reach the goal for mastering English, which sounds reasonable to me. And he also stressed importance of writing down a “Mission Statement”, for an example, “So little done, so much to do” which is a quote from British politician, Cecil Rhodes, and very similar to Japanese old saying, “The sunset is near. Yet there’s long way to go.”

What is the difference between “Goal” and “Mission Statement”? What does “Mission Statement” exactly mean? Can an epigram or axiom like “So little done, so much to do” be a mission statement at all? Maybe I should ask this to the English teaching expert, but can somebody give me the definition of “Mission Statement (I thought it a marketing term),” how effective to have it in improving English capability, and propriety of using somebody’s witty phrase as a mission statement?

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I'm having trouble wrapping my brain around this: what possible relevance could a bit of corporate-speak nonsense like Mission Statement have for learning English? – Marthaª Jan 5 '11 at 23:28
@Martha - I agree; the use of a mission statement for this seems out of place. – morganpdx Jan 6 '11 at 21:15
This seems quite off-topic. This isn't about ELU but about business culture. – Mitch Dec 13 '11 at 21:24
up vote 2 down vote accepted

I believe you can use a mission statement and a goal interchangably, although you can have multiple goals addressed with a single mission statement. Mission statement is used often as a way of clarifying the purpose of a project; e.g. "This project will address this problem.". The goal of that project would be to rectify that problem.

I suppose you could say the mission statement is a formal declaration of your goals. In that context, using a witty phrase seems to have very little to do with that, unless it specifically addresses your goals.

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A mission statement is, quite literally, a statement which defines your mission; that is, your underlying purpose, motivating reason, or ultimate objective for doing things. (According to M-W.com, a mission in this context is "a preestablished and often self-imposed objective or purpose".) As such, using a witty phrase such as the one given is quite pointless and completely inappropriate.

A mission statement for a group or company that teaches English to Japanese people could be "We deliver the most comprehensive English-language tutorials to make our customers sound as if they are native speakers in the shortest time possible."

Conversely, your mission statement as a student learning English could be "to improve my mastery of English to the point where I can carry on a wide-ranging conversation comfortably with a native English speaker."

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A fine effort to give meaning to the phrase, but in practice a mission statement is a semantically null string of pleasing buzzwords; most examples are capable of meaning anything and nearly all are routinely ignored. Hmmm...I believe that at this point I am legally obligated to say "Meh!", "Bah! Humbug!", and "Get off my lawn!". – dmckee Jan 6 '11 at 0:11
@dmckee I think you're referring to catchphrase, not mission statement. – morganpdx Jan 6 '11 at 21:14

Mission statement is a business term that usually presents a vaguely positive spin on how a company sees itself, while providing as little information as possible. A typical mission statement would use a lot of buzzwords in a generally feel-good way, perhaps something like

Empowering our customers to reach their full potential through our corporate synergy and high-impact business practices.

As you can see, that pretty much says nothing, and that's the way most business like it. If you don't say anything, you can't be pinned down or held accountable. Your statement "So little done, so much to do," while commendable in its honesty, would fail the test for most businesses because it admits a fault (little has been achieved) and confronts a problem (so much to yet to achieve).

The fact is, you don't need a mission statement if you really know what you want to do. A mission statement is intended for two audiences: a company's perceived clients and customers, and its employees. It represents nothing more than — how shall I put this? — an attempt to blow a little sunshine up a lot of people's asses.

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I'm not sure mission statements are actually supposed to contain "as little information as possible"; just an unfortunately high incidence of that within the set of those so far created. ;-) – Orbling Jan 6 '11 at 1:08
The point of a mission statement is not to say as little as possible, make people feel good, use buzzwords or avoid accountability. The point of a mission statement is to state your mission, so everyone involved in achieving that mission knows what they're trying to accomplish. It's unfortunate when they are used as a marketing tool instead of a project or team tool. – morganpdx Jan 6 '11 at 21:13
@morganpdx: I have never seen a mission statement that wasn't complete drivel. YMMV. – Robusto Jan 6 '11 at 21:50
I think you'll find your example is a vision statement. – Marcin Dec 13 '11 at 21:00

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