Mission Statements VS. Organizational Commitment - Part I

So how many of you out there have created a mission statement for your department? Looking around the room it appears as though almost all of you have. Good job! Now what does it say? Here's one of my favorites: "Our mission is to provide for public safety, prevent fires, put out fires, help people who are hurt, and state the obvious about our services whenever possible." Wow! That was a stirring mission statement! Have you seen it before? I bet if you surf fire department web sites for any amount of time you'll find thousands of statements like the one I just mentioned that have a strangely similar ring to them.

Let's introduce a new term into our fire service vocabulary: Organizational Commitment. You want to keep the mission statement? Great, keep it! But think about adding something like this as a starting point for change within your organization. Let it express how your department should be accurately represented to those that it serves and those it represents.

First things first, these are ideas that aren't new! They originate in the business world, BIG business no less. It came from organizations that wanted to provide an atmosphere that fosters growth for their employees and a desire to have their customers satisfied each and every time. If you are familiar with management theory, isn't this an application of it to the fire service??? Hey, NFA is offering a class in this stuff, I can't be completely wrong, Boggles the mind doesn't it???

So what is a Statement of Organizational Commitment? Commitment to organizations has been found to be positively related to such organizational outcomes as job satisfaction, motivation and attendance (areas we could all use some help with time & again). This term is used to describe a statement that reflects the personality & vision of the department. Employees who believe in the organization are dedicated to what it stands for, and intend to do what is good for the organization.

Case in point, if you only ask of your employees to do what your mission statement says, well then chances are they're doing it and you shouldn't be complaining about their attitudes toward work. Here's an example of a Statement of Organizational Commitment I created for the City of Las Vegas Fire & Rescue Department to help keep your juices flowing. Think about what it asks of its employees and try to imagine how your staff would respond to making this kind of commitment.

As an Organization and as Individual Members of Las Vegas Fire & Rescue,
We will Strive to provide the Highest Level of Service in Everything we do
Learn and Grow from our Unique Talents & Abilities
Create a Vision that will set a Quality Standard for Leadership
And we will Continually work to Improve our Relationships with Each Other
While we Grow with our Community as Partners in a Safer Future

Why make this kind of a commitment? Many leading experts of organizational commitment assert that all of an organization's goals and the methods used to achieve the goals unavoidably influences the quality of commitment expressed by the workforce. At closer look isn't the Statement of Organizational Commitment listed above a continuous goal? Can we then assume that by creating one of these for our department that it will positively impact the attitudes and perceptions of both our employees and our customers? I believe so!!!

Committed employees contribute greatly to organizations because they perform and behave on achieving organizational goals. Once again, The Statement of Organizational Commitment is an organizational goal, a mission statement is not a goal, it is a statement of fact. As much as facts can be the starting point for change it is goals and vision that act as the catalyst to keep it going.

A mission statement may do a great job of telling the public what emergency services you provide, but in order to ensure completion of employee objectives such as the motivation to bring effort to one's work, the motivation to take responsibility, and the willingness to learn. A Statement of Organizational Commitment can create a sense of loyalty and identification for your employees towards the organization.

Next installment: Part II - Find out how to create your department's Statement of Organizational Commitment without turning the process and the result into a debacle.