Origin of “Mission statement”
Posted: 16 November 2009 01:16 PM   [ Ignore ]
Total Posts:  32
Joined  2008-09-02

Can someone offer background on the origin of the term “mission statement” as defined as “a summary describing the aims, values, and overall plan of an organization”?

Is this term a 20th century invention?  Is it used throughout the English speaking world? (I’m American). 

Many thanks

Posted: 16 November 2009 03:31 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
Total Posts:  1495
Joined  2007-03-21

The oldest citation I find at NewsPaperArchive is from Nov 29, 1973

A phrase in the proposed mission statement for Wisconsin’s freshman-sophomore campuses which implies that the two-year campuses exist only or primarily for those who cannot afford to go elsewhere was criticized Wednesday by Dr. Kenneth M. Bailey, dean of the University of Wisconsin Center-Sheboygan County.

OED has it in a military usage in 1967.  The earliest business management sense seems to be 1971 from the Journal of Higher Education,

There is a high probability that such a set of goal statements would be no more meaningful than many ‘mission’ statements now found in college catalogs.

The “now” modifier suggests to me that the phrase is relatively new.

Sounds like it is military in origin and likely first picked up in academia then by business.  Just a guess on my part.

[ Edited: 16 November 2009 03:48 PM by Oecolampadius ]
Posted: 16 November 2009 04:14 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
Total Posts:  3190
Joined  2007-01-31

Using Googlebooks, I came up with a 1960 (date verified) government document, “The Role of the Department of Commerce in Science and Technology: a report to the Secretary of Commerce by a special advisory committee of the National Academy of Sciences.” It uses the phrase “mission statement” several times.  Here is the first:

3. The existing mission statement for Radio Propagation and Standards should be issued as an Executive Order. A similar statement for Data Processing should be prepared, evaluated and, if found appropriate, given similar status.

I also found Therapeutic Food Manual by Royal Lee, DDS, published by the International Foundation for Nutrition and Health, which prominently contains a Mission Statement for that organization before the table of contents.  Google dates this book at 1953, and the copyright page shows the same date, but it also shows an ISBN number for the book and a fax number, website, and email address for the organization.  So I think that this particular edition was not printed in 1953, and don’t trust that as a date for the mission statement.

Posted: 17 November 2009 05:13 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
Total Posts:  32
Joined  2008-09-02

Thanks.  This is what I was looking for.

Posted: 17 November 2009 01:32 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
Total Posts:  380
Joined  2007-02-13

In the movie Jerry Maguire, whenever someone complimented the title character on his “memo”, he would say “[aw-shucks] it’s just a mission statement”.  I found that odd, because I thought a mission statement was pretty important while memos were a dime a dozen.

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