The Do’s and Don’ts of writing effective Vision and Mission Statements
How to write your company mission and vision statement — and why it matters
Attempting to articulate 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 company culture, especially for companies that are genuinely trying to do more than just make money. (Even for overtly profit-driven companies, articulating your missions and/or vision can be a powerful act; take Wal-Mart, whose pre-millennial vision was, ‘To become a $125 billion company by 2000’). On the other hand, however, mission and vision statements have a pretty poor reputation, often with good reason! They’re known for being generic, vague, disconnected in any real way from the company’s activities, and sometimes even incomprehensible. Take, for example, Hilton Hotels, whose vision statement reads, ‘To fill the earth with the light and warmth of hospitality,’ which, although poetic, probably isn’t quite how most people would describe their stay at a Hilton hotel. Or how about this company’s mission statement: ‘X is a multinational corporation engaged in socially responsible operations, worldwide. It is dedicated to provide products and services of such quality that our customers will receive superior value while our employees and business partners will share in our success and our stock-holders will receive a sustained superior return on their investment.’ You’d never know reading 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 the Culture-First advantage comes in. While for many companies defining a mission and 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 are absolutely critical in setting the direction of the company and focusing the team. If written well, a company’s mission (its reason for existing) and vision (its ambitions and dreams for what it wants to create) will influence everything the company does, from its hiring and onboarding processes to its sales and 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 the difference between the two, and what are the ‘Do’s and Don’ts’ of articulating your company’s mission and vision.
Vision vs Mission: the difference
The company VISION statement articulates the company’s medium to long-term goals and aspirations. Looking 5-10+ years into the future, and if everything goes right, this is how the company will change the world. To be powerful and inspiring, it should be compelling, meaningful and boldly ambitious, capturing the essence of why the company exists 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 this helps the client. It explains the tangible activities and overall approach or attitude the company takes as it translates the big picture vision into everyday action.
Companies find mission statement definition easier than the defining the vision and there are companies who choose to have a mission or a vision. I believe that one doesn’t work without the other. Both are critical.
The Do’s and Don’ts of 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 and philosophy
- 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, succinct language
- Articulate a tangible, specific yet ambitious goal in your vision statement
- Think 5-10+ years ahead with your vision
- Make it compelling
- Explain your mission and vision so that a seven-year-old could understand it
- Make it specific enough for people to understand what business you’re in
- Think deeply about it, alone and with your colleagues
- Test it out on real people — friends and family members — and ask for their feedback
Examples of great mission and vision statements
Below are 18 mission and vision statements examples from global companies, DDOs (Deliberately Developmental Organisations) and organisations whose founders I have interviewed 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 create economic opportunity for every member of the global workforce.
Mission: To connect the world’s professionals to make them more productive and successful.
Like Google, LinkedIn’s vision speaks to the outcome for the client, and the mission describes what the company does to create this outcome, using clear, simple language.
Vision: To create the most compelling car company of the 21st century by driving the world’s transition to electric vehicles.
Mission: To accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy.
Clear about what they want to do, why and the position they want to hold in the market as they do it.
Mission: At eBay, our mission is to provide a global online marketplace where practically anyone can trade practically anything, enabling economic opportunity around the world.
Vision: Our vision for commerce is one that is enabled by people, powered by technology, and open to everyone.
eBay’s vision of a people-enabled, technology-powered commerce, and their mission of providing a global online platform to enable global economic opportunity, clearly feed into each other, but they are distinct, written in language which is accessible and easily understandable.
Vision: To create a better everyday life for the many people.
Mission: Offer a wide range of well-designed, functional home furnishing products at prices so low that as many people as possible will be able to afford them.
The overall impact they want to create is clear (to create a better everyday life), as is the target market (the many, not the few) and the method (by offering well-designed, functional and affordable furniture and related products,)
Vision: To be Earth’s most customer-centric company, where customers can find and discover anything they might want to buy online.
Mission: We strive to offer our customers the lowest possible prices, the best available selection, and the utmost convenience.
The vision is certainly ambitious, but it’s clearly rooted in three core factors — price, product and convenience. Amazon’s success can undoubtedly be attributed to their ability to execute their mission of the lowest possible prices, the best available selection, and the utmost convenience.
Vision: We believe passionately in the power of ideas to change attitudes, lives and, ultimately, the world.
Mission: Spread ideas.
This two-word mission statement could be seen as slightly obtuse, because it doesn’t actually state that the organisation’s core offering is hosting events which are then made available via online video. It does however allow TED to do whatever it takes to spread ideas.
7. Southwest Airlines
Vision: To become the world’s most loved, most flown, and most profitable airline.
Mission: The mission of Southwest Airlines is dedication to the highest quality of customer service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and company spirit.
A clear, simple yet powerful vision and mission statement. Southwest is clearly achieving these!
Vision: To provide access to the world’s information in one click.
Mission: To organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.
These two statements are very similar, almost confusingly so, but there is a clear difference between them: the vision describes the client experience, while the mission describes the work that Google does.
Culture-First company mission and vision statement examples
The Deliberately Developmental Organisations mentioned in An Everyone Culture, have one critical element in common, human development. Reading the two examples below you will see how human development, both internal and external to the company, is front and center in both company’s statements.
Vision: Change the world by changing workplace culture.
Mission: NextJump’s mission 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 the world with this simple mantra: Better Me (train and improve yourself at work) + Better You (Use that knowledge to help others) = Better Us (Work together to create a better world)
More than just an empty mantra. NextJump’s vision and mission are woven deeply into the fabric of how they run their business. They are the Usain Bolt of organisations. Read more about them here.
10. The Decurion Corporation:
Vision: To pursue profitability and human development as one thing.
Purpose: To provide places for people to flourish, to become fully oneself, which includes living an undivided life and growing into what one is meant to be.
Although this vision and mission statement doesn’t articulate what exactly Decurion does, its raison d’être is clear and there is no mistaking that growing and developing its people sits at the very core of this business.
Culture-First companies see defining their mission and vision as a core business task that forms part of the foundation, together with the company’s values, upon which the rest of the business will operate. These statements inform customers, partners and potential employees, about what the business exists to do, and guides employees about how to do it.
A post on mission and vision statements wouldn’t be complete without me presenting the CultureGene vision and mission.
Our mission is develop tools and services to help high-growth companies maximize their culture.
Our vision is become a DDO 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.