The Do’s and Don’ts of writing effective Vision and Mission Statements
Attempting toarticulate your company’s mission and vision can be inherently contradictory:on the one hand, the mission and vision are a critical piece of a well-defined companyculture, especially for companies that are genuinely trying to do more than justmake money. (Even for overtly profit-driven companies, articulating your missionsand/or vision can be a powerful act; take Wal-Mart, whose pre-millennial visionwas, ‘To become a $125 billion company by 2000’). On the other hand, however,mission and vision statements have a pretty poor reputation, often with goodreason! They’re known for being generic, vague, disconnected in any real wayfrom the company’s activities, and sometimes even incomprehensible. Take, forexample, Hilton Hotels, whose vision statement reads, ‘To fill the earth withthe light and warmth of hospitality,’ which, although poetic, probably isn’tquite how most people would describe their stay at a Hilton hotel. Or how aboutthis company’s mission statement: ‘X is a multinational corporation engaged insocially responsible operations, worldwide. It is dedicated to provide productsand services of such quality that our customers will receive superior valuewhile our employees and business partners will share in our success and our stock-holderswill receive a sustained superior return on their investment.’ You’d never knowreading this that this company is GM and they make cars…
They’re known for being generic, vague, disconnected in any real way from the company’s activities, and sometimes even incomprehensible.
Here’s where theCulture-First advantage comes in. While for many companies defining a missionand vision statement is yet another task to tick off a great long to do list,in Culture-First companies, leaders know that the mission and vision areabsolutely critical in setting the direction of the company and focusing theteam. If written well, a company’s mission (its reason for existing) and vision(its ambitions and dreams for what it wants to create) will influenceeverything the company does, from its hiring and onboarding processes to its salesand marketing approach, to the products and services it offers. Together with company values, the Vision and Mission statements form the foundations for a strong and effective organisational culture.
So what exactly is thedifference between the two, and what are the ‘Do’s and Don’ts’ of articulatingyour company’s mission and vision.
Vision vs Mission: the difference
The company VISION statement articulatesthe company’s medium to long-term goals and aspirations. Looking 5-10+ yearsinto the future, and if everything goes right, this is how the company willchange the world. To be powerful and inspiring, it should be compelling,meaningful and boldly ambitious, capturing the essence of why the companyexists and what it would make happen if anything were possible.
The company MISSION statement describes the organisation’s visible, tangible work in the world —what the company does, who it does it for, and how thishelps the client. It explains the tangible activities and overall approach orattitude the company takes as it translates the big picture vision intoeveryday action.
Companies find mission statement definition easier than the defining the vision and there are companies whochoose to have a mission or a vision. I believe that one doesn’t work withoutthe other. Both are critical.
The Do’s and Don’tsof mission and vision statements
- Be generic, vague or grammatically complex
- Use clichéd, overused jargon (such as describing your company as‘the leading provider,’ the ‘best-in-class’ and so on.)
- Make it too wordy
- Muddle together your goals, strategies, aspirations, values andphilosophy
- Try to say everything
- Try to be too clever
- Make it understandable only to insiders or employees
- Write one just because you think you ‘should’
- Use clear, simple, succinctlanguage
- Articulate a tangible, specificyet ambitious goal in your vision statement
- Think 5-10+ years ahead withyour vision
- Make it compelling
- Explain your mission and vision so that a seven-year-old couldunderstand it
- Make it specific enough for people to understand what businessyou’re in
- Think deeply about it, alone and with your colleagues
- Test it out on real people — friends and family members — and askfor their feedback
Examples of great mission and vision statements
Below are 18 mission and vision statements examples from global companies, DDOs (DeliberatelyDevelopmental Organisations) and organisations whose founders I haveinterviewed on this blog. Let’s start with the big guns:
Vision and Mission statement examples from Ten of the World’s Most Admired Companies
Vision: To createeconomic opportunity for every member of the global workforce.
Mission: To connect theworld’s professionals to make them more productive and successful.
Like Google,LinkedIn’s vision speaks to the outcome for the client, and the missiondescribes what the company does to create this outcome, using clear, simplelanguage.
Vision: To create themost compelling car company of the 21st century by driving the world’s transition toelectric vehicles.
Mission: To acceleratethe world’s transition to sustainable energy.
Clear about whatthey want to do, why and the position they want to hold in the market as theydo it.
Mission: At eBay, ourmission is to provide a global online marketplace where practically anyone cantrade practically anything, enabling economic opportunity around the world.
Vision: Our vision forcommerce is one that is enabled by people, powered by technology, and open toeveryone.
eBay’s vision of apeople-enabled, technology-powered commerce, and their mission of providing aglobal online platform to enable global economic opportunity, clearly feed intoeach other, but they are distinct, written in language which is accessible andeasily understandable.
Vision: To create a bettereveryday life for the many people.
Mission: Offer a widerange of well-designed, functional home furnishing products at prices so lowthat as many people as possible will be able to afford them.
The overall impactthey want to create is clear (to create a better everyday life), as is thetarget market (the many, not the few) and the method (by offeringwell-designed, functional and affordable furniture and related products,)
Vision: To be Earth’s mostcustomer-centric company, where customers can find and discover anything theymight want to buy online.
Mission: We strive tooffer our customers the lowest possible prices, the best available selection,and the utmost convenience.
The vision iscertainly ambitious, but it’s clearly rooted in three core factors — price,product and convenience. Amazon’s success can undoubtedly be attributed totheir ability to execute their mission of the lowest possible prices, the bestavailable selection, and the utmost convenience.
Vision: We believepassionately in the power of ideas to change attitudes, lives and, ultimately,the world.
Mission: Spread ideas.
This two-wordmission statement could be seen as slightly obtuse, because it doesn’t actuallystate that the organisation’s core offering is hosting events which are thenmade available via online video. It does however allow TED to do whatever ittakes to spread ideas.
Vision: To become theworld’s most loved, most flown, and most profitable airline.
Mission: The mission ofSouthwest Airlines is dedication to the highest quality of customer servicedelivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and companyspirit.
A clear, simple yetpowerful vision and mission statement. Southwest is clearly achieving these!
Vision: To provideaccess to the world’s information in one click.
Mission: To organizethe world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.
These two statementsare very similar, almost confusingly so, but there is a clear differencebetween them: the vision describes the client experience, while the missiondescribes the work that Google does.
Culture-First company mission and vision statementexamples
The DeliberatelyDevelopmental Organisations mentioned in An Everyone Culture, have one critical element in common, humandevelopment. Reading the two examples below you will see how human development,both internal and external to the company, is front and center in bothcompany’s statements.
Vision: Change theworld by changing workplace culture.
Mission: NextJump’smission is to transform people’s jobs and lives by sharing our own learning,tools we have developed, and our Perks at Work platform. To help change theworld with this simple mantra: Better Me (train and improve yourself at work) +Better You (Use that knowledge to help others) = Better Us (Work together tocreate a better world)
More than just anempty mantra. NextJump’s vision and mission are woven deeply into the fabric ofhow they run their business. They are the Usain Bolt of organisations. Readmore about them here.
10. The DecurionCorporation:
Vision: To pursueprofitability and human development as one thing.
Purpose: To provideplaces for people to flourish, to become fully oneself, which includes livingan undivided life and growing into what one is meant to be.
Although this visionand mission statement doesn’t articulate what exactly Decurion does, its raison d’être is clear and there is no mistaking that growing anddeveloping its people sits at the very core of this business.
Culture-First companiessee defining their mission and vision as a core business task that forms partof the foundation, together with the company’s values, upon which the rest ofthe business will operate. These statements inform customers, partners andpotential employees, about what the business exists to do, and guides employeesabout how to do it.
A post on mission andvision statements wouldn’t be complete without me presenting the CultureGenevision and mission.
Our mission is developtools and services to help high-growth companies maximize their culture.
Our vision is become aDDO and to change the culture of business globally.
For more information on core values, mission and vision statements check out The Best Company Decks on the Web.