The creation and purpose of vision and mission statements have been interpreted and reinterpreted so many times that leaders are confused about developing and using this crucial foundation of any long-standing initiative. This article will help you clear up the confusion and give you insights into how you can create a vision and mission statement that will drive your organization to success.
It is important to understand why these are fundamentally necessary, so you can develop them to their intent. The vision and mission statements drive every decision and action in the organization and ensure the organization in its entirety works towards the same goal the same way. To use the notorious ship analogy, your vision is the island's treasure chest that will bring riches to the sailors, and your mission is to get to the island and retrieve it, thus creating a map everyone follows (your strategic plan).
The vision statement is not intended to be understood from a tactical perspective, whereas the mission statement is. The vision statement comes from the imagination through an illustration of something different than what is, and it serves as the inspiration behind why the mission is important. Like that bountiful bootie that will make sailors rich.
The mission statement is the tactical perspective that dictates how that vision is possible. Unlike the vision, a mission is actionable, making a vision logically feasible. Such as, by sailing through the treacherous seas, we will make our way to the island.
How do you create a Vision Statement?
If you google search Apple's vision statement, you might get "We believe we are on this earth to make great products." First, this is not a vision at all because we can't imagine it. Another thing to point out is that it describes what they will do, an action; therefore, this is more of a mission. But more so, this is so vague that anyone in any industry could use it.
So, what does a good vision statement look like? Think of Steve Job's vision, according to Inc.'s October 1981 Cover Story, being "a future with computers on every worker's desk." This makes a good vision because it can be imagined as something different than what people had.
When you're creating a vision statement, ask, "What does the future look like?" You want to use your imagination, not your logical brain. If you're a tactical thinker, try asking yourself, what will these activities achieve once they are executed?
A few examples of what a vision might look like could be: "A world without pollution where future generations can thrive," or "Simple and healthy premade meals so families can spend more time living happy, healthy lives," or "A razor that gives men a clean shave without damaging their skin."
It's a good idea to include what, who, and the result. Such as decreasing pollution (what) so future generations (who) can thrive (the result), or healthy premade meals (what) so families (who) can live happy, healthy lives (result), or razors (what) for men (who) that don't damage skin (result)… Or treasure (what) so sailors (who) will get rich (result).
One way to start creating a vision statement is to brainstorm a list of ideas in each. WHAT do we do? Then, WHO do we do it for? Finally, What is the result? Combine all potentially like ideas into higher categories until you have one or two ideas (no more than three) for the What, the Who, and the result.
What happens if you have outliers that don't seem to fit into a category with others? Try envisioning the future without that idea, then try envisioning the future again with it. If it makes the vision less clear or "muddies the water," then consider removing it. If it makes the vision clearer, then you probably want to include it.
How do you create a Mission Statement?
When creating the mission statement, you want to think more tactically, but not too tactically. You're not looking for each activity that needs to be done. Instead, you're looking at the highest level, i.e., "We will sail to the island."
Going back to Apple's example, to achieve Steve Job's vision, "a computer on every worker's desk." His mission might have been "By making affordable computers that are easy to use."
To provide a few more examples:
If your vision is "A world without pollution," your mission will describe how you will do that. Maybe "By developing innovative solutions to decrease the carbon footprint of manufactured goods."
If you envision "healthy premade meals on family dinner tables," your mission might describe "sourcing farm-fresh ingredients at a price families can afford."
If your future is "A razor that gives men a clean shave without damaging their skin," you might do that "Using the highest-grade materials and innovative processes to produce the sharpest razors in the world."
When creating your mission statement, you can take the same approach as with the vision statement by brainstorming the actions needed to realize that vision and categorizing similar ideas. Because Mission Statements are intended to be tactical, it is common to see them listed as bullet points, and you might see more than three, but likely no more than five.
In the end, you should have a clear understanding of what the future looks like and the approach that makes the future feasible so you and your organization can stay focused and drive results.