Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational Leadership


Although most organizations have a statement of purpose, often referred to as a mission statement, little empirical research exists to demonstrate how these statements are used in the decision-making process. Also, although some have proposed lists of key elements to be included in a mission statement for optimal usefulness, very little research exists that tests specific elements for their usefulness. The purpose of this research was to examine how administrators use mission statements in decision making and the effect of content of the statement on usefulness.

The research population consisted of presidents and vice-presidents of eight upper-midwestern doctoral-granting public universities, and two members of each respective state higher education governing board. All subjects were surveyed using an instrument developed specifically for this research and 17 were interviewed to obtain data regarding the usefulness of their mission statements and how frequently they consulted their statements. Mission statements of the eight institutions were analyzed by a group of faculty experts to identify key elements against a taxonomy of elements proposed by Pearce and David (1987) .

The findings indicated that most administrators consulted mission statements less than half the time when making decisions. Mission statements were found to be most useful when making academic and public-relations decisions, and least useful when making student affairs decisions. Statements containing more of Pearce's and David's key elements were actually consulted slightly less often, and were considered to be slightly less useful than statements containing fewer of the elements, although these findings were not statistically significant. Both board members and administrators stated that mission statements were often too vague to be of help in decision making. Administrators also expressed a desire for statements with a visionary aspect to them, a feature lacking in most statements.