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The Official Baldrige Blog

Does Everyone Know What Your Mission Means (Expects)?

Mission Healthcare concept image showing healthcare employee behind a circular image of Mission surrounded by healthcare icons.
Credit: Panchenko Vladimir/Shutterstock

“What is your organization attempting to accomplish?”

According to the Baldrige Excellence Framework, this question addresses your mission: your organization’s overall function. The mission might define cus­tomers or markets served, distinctive or core competencies, or technologies used.

A Mission Statement of the People

Photo of Sr. Mary Jean Ryan, President and CEO (retired) of SSM Health Care.
Sr. Mary Jean Ryan
SSM Health Care (Retired) 2002 Baldrige Award Recipient
Credit: SSM Health Care

In a wonderful speech from 2005, Sr. Mary Jean Ryan, president and CEO (retired) of SSM Health Care, the first Baldrige Award recipient in health care, said, “For any organization, the mission is the lifeblood. . . the fundamental reason why we do what we do.”

She went on to talk about her health care system’s early challenges with not having a common mission statement, instead allowing its health care facilities across seven regions the autonomy to identify their own missions and values. SSM eventually “discovered” a 13-word mission statement, involving nearly 3,000 employees at every level of the organization from every one of its entities, she said.

“It wouldn’t have taken long for our communications department to come up with a catchy mission statement . . . that everybody in the system could relate to,” said Ryan during her presentation. “But we realized that a mission statement . . . must be of the people, by the people, and for the people. . . . If a solid mix of employees has not helped create the mission statement, it will not truly belong to them, and the potential to transform your organization will be hindered.”

In 1999, after a year-long process, SSM came up with the following mission statement that is still used today:

“Through our exceptional health care services, we reveal the healing presence of God.”

The SSM website says that the mission statement and values are known by every employee and used to guide decisions and how staff members treat one another. Ryan said, “The mission and values must . . . be an internal guidepost to our own behavior. Because if we don’t treat one another well, how can we ever expect that our patients will feel that they’ve experienced the healing presence of God?"

"This wonderful experience of rearticulating our mission and values might never have happened had we not used the Baldrige framework to improve our organization,” added Ryan.

Award Winners' Mission Statements

Recently, a Baldrige Executive Fellow took a look at the mission statements of the Baldrige Award recipients. I thought this was an interesting exercise, so I focused on the 25 health care winners that came after SSM won in 2002. The following were their missions at the time they won the Baldrige Award:


Adventist Health White Memorial
Los Angeles, CA
Mission: “Living God's love by inspiring health, wholeness and hope.”

Mary Greeley Medical Center
Ames, IA
Mission: “To advance health through specialized care and personal touch.”


Memorial Hospital and Health Care Center
Jasper, IN
Mission: “Christ’s healing mission of compassion empowers us to be for others through quality and excellence.”


Adventist Health Castle
Oahu, HI
Mission: “Living God’s love by inspiring health, wholeness, and hope.”

Southcentral Foundation (2017 and 2011 Baldrige Award winner)
Anchorage, AK
Mission: “Working together with the Native Community to achieve wellness through health and related services.”


Kindred Nursing and Rehabilitation – Mountain Valley (now Mountain Valley of Cascadia)
Kellogg, ID
Mission: “To promote healing, provide hope, preserve dignity, and produce value, for each patient, resident, family member, customer, employee, and shareholder we serve.”

Memorial Hermann Sugar Land Hospital
Sugar Land, TX
Mission: “A not-for-profit, community-owned, health system with spiritual values, dedicated to providing high-quality health services in order to improve the health of the people of Southeast Texas.”


Charleston Area Medical Center Health System
Charleston, WV
Mission: “Striving to provide the best health care to every patient, every day.”


Hill Country Memorial
Fredericksburg, TX
Mission: “Remarkable Always.”

St. David's HealthCare
Austin, TX
Mission: “To provide exceptional care to every patient, every day with a spirit of warmth, friendliness, and personal pride.”


Sutter Davis Hospital
Davis, CA
Mission: “To enhance the well-being of people in the communities we serve, through a not-for-profit commitment to compassion and excellence in health care services.”


North Mississippi Health Services
Tupelo, MS
Mission: “To be the provider of the best patient-centered care and health services in America.”


Henry Ford Health System
Detroit, MI
Mission: “To improve human life through excellence in the science and art of health care and healing.”

Schneck Medical Center
Seymour, IN
Mission: “To provide quality healthcare to all we serve.”


Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital
Downers Grove, IL
Mission: “To serve the health needs of individuals, families, and communities through a wholistic approach.”


Egg Harbor Township, NJ
Mission: “We deliver health and healing to all people through trusting relationships.” 

Heartland Health (now Mosaic)
St. Joseph, MO
Mission: “To improve the health of individuals and communities located in the Heartland region and provide the right care, at the right time, in the right place, at the right cost with outcomes second to none.”


Poudre Valley Health System (now part of University of Colorado Health) 
Fort Collins, CO
Mission: “To be an independent, non-profit organization and to provide innovative, comprehensive care of the highest quality, always exceeding customer expectations.”


Mercy Health System PDF (now part of MercyRockford Health System)
Janesville WI
Mission: “To provide exceptional healthcare services resulting in healing in the broadest sense.”

Sharp HealthCare PDF
San Diego, CA
Mission: “To improve the health of those we serve with a commitment to excellence in all that we do.”


North Mississippi Medical Center
Tupelo, MS
Mission: “To continuously improve the health of the people of our region.”


Bronson Methodist Hospital PDF
Kalamazoo, MI
Mission: “Provide excellent healthcare services.”


Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Hamilton PDF
Hamilton, NJ
Mission: “Committed to Excellence Through Service. We exist to promote, preserve, and restore the health of our community.”


Baptist Hospital, Inc. PDF
Pensacola, FL
Mission: “To provide superior service based on Christian values to improve the quality of life for people and communities served.”

Saint Luke's Health System PDF
Kansas City, MO
Mission: “Committed to the highest levels of excellence in providing health services to all patients in a caring environment. We are dedicated to medical research and education. As a member of the Saint Luke’s Health System, we are committed to enhancing the physical, mental, and spiritual health of the communities we serve.”

Assessment of Mission Statements

I think what these health care organizations are attempting to accomplish is pretty clear from reading these missions. I also think it’s interesting that embedded in these missions are the expectations for staff members of how to treat patients and one another. Patients and other customers might also have care expectations after reading such missions.

  • Have you thought about what your mission says about your organization?
  • Does each employee know what it means and how his/her job relates to and supports it?

In other words, is your mission statement of the people?

2019-2020 Baldrige Excellence Framework Business/Nonprofit cover artwork

Baldrige Excellence Framework

The Baldrige Excellence Framework has empowered organizations to accomplish their missions, improve results, and become more competitive. It includes the Criteria for Performance Excellence, core values and concepts, and guidelines for evaluating your processes and results.

Purchase your copy today!

Available versions: Business/Nonprofit, Education, and Health Care

About the author

Dawn Bailey

Dawn Bailey is a writer/editor for the Baldrige Program and involved in all aspects of communications, from leading the Baldrige Executive Fellows program to managing the direction of case studies, social media efforts, and assessment teams. She has more than 25 years of experience, 18 years at the Baldrige Program. Her background is in English and journalism, with degrees from the University of Connecticut and an advanced degree from George Mason University.

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"Does Everyone Know What Your Mission Means (Expects)"? is a well written article by Dawn Bailey. If she had asked me about a shortest statement of any mission statement of any company, no matter what they do for business or even for an individual in his or her personal life, my "one-word" answer for shortest mission statement is; "Improvement", and a "two-word" answer is Quality Improvement. The mission statement should not be more than two words. It conveys everything that there is to tell. Thanking you and best wishes, from DR. Madhav Sinha, President, Canadian Society for Quality.

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