Every respectable organization has a mission and a vision on their website. What is a mission and vision statement? What are they and how do you formulate them? That is what we will focus on in this article. A mission and a vision are the basis of an organization’s strategy. Companies take strategic decisions based on their mission and their vision. That is why it is essential to have a clear and solid mission & vision statement.
A definition of mission & vision
The mission & vision define the reason of an organization’s existence, as well as what the organization wants to achieve. Let us look into the definitions of a mission and a vision:
A mission is a formulation of why an organization exists. It should explain the reason of why the organization is present on this earth. Its purpose. It answers the most difficult question in life: why are we here? It explains an identity.
A vision describes in which direction an organization is heading. What do we want to achieve in the future?
When someone asks you: where do you want to be 5 years from now? That person is essentially asking you what your vision is of yourself.
Although the mission and vision each have their own purpose, the terms are often used interchangeably. It is not always black and white, many organizations have one statement that contains both the mission and the vision.
A mission statement concerns a description of why an organization exists: its high level objective. It contains what a company does, its core business and for whom (their target audience).
A simple example of a mission statement of an ice cream company could be:
“We aim to sell the most delicious, affordable ice cream flavours.“
While a mission statement is more present-oriented, a vision statement describes the desired future state of an organization.
A vision statement of the same ice cream company could be:
“We want to make the word a happier place by making ice cream available for everyone.”
As you can see, the vision of this ice cream company is more of an ultimate end goal, while the mission is something less, well, ‘visionary’.
Why do organizations define a vision & a mission?
A mission and a vision have an internal as well as an external purpose. Internally, a mission & vision statement helps management to make strategic decisions. Making those decisions becomes easier when the vision and the mission of the organizations is clear. A mission & vision may also give employees a sense of purpose & belonging. A common objective, answering why we do what we do.
Externally, a vision and a mission serves to communicate with stakeholders, such as customers, shareholders & partners.
How to Define a Vision & Mission
There are many ways to define a vision and a mission. There is not one right approach. Still, I would like to give you some best practices for writing a mission & vision statement:
- When writing the mission statement, think about the reason your organization exists. This is what you want your mission to be clear about. When writing your vision statement, think about where you want to be in the future, for example in ten years time.
- Triple S: Keep it short, specific and simple. Firstly, you want your mission & vision to be short enough to be remembered. Page long missions & visions are not going to stick in people’s minds. Of course, you can always elaborate more on your mission & vision statement in supporting documentation. Secondly, you want your mission & vision to be specific. It can be a pitfall to make the mission & vision overly generic. That’s not way you want. Lastly, you want your mission vision to be simple. This doesn’t imply it is easy to fulfill the mission and vision. Rather, it means the statements are easy to understand.
- Continuously review your statements. Defining a vision & a mission is not a one-time task. It needs reviewing one in a while. The world is changing, and so are businesses, our views of the world and of ourselves. A logic reviewing sequence of your mission and vision could be once every year, or once every two years.
- It is important that internal and external stakeholders support the mission & vision. Asking them for input is a great idea, as it creates a shared purpose and a sense of belonging.
Examples of a mission & vision statement
Nothing makes you understand better what a mission & vision statement are than actual examples from existing businesses. Below, I am giving a couple of examples:
Mission statement examples
Citigroup: “While we’re a global bank, our mission is simple: We responsibly provide financial services that enable growth and economic progress”
Walmart: ”The secret of successful retailing is to give your customers what they want. And really, if you think about it from your point of view as a customer, you want everything: a wide assortment of good-quality merchandise; the lowest possible prices; guaranteed satisfaction with what you buy; friendly, knowledgeable service; convenient hours; free parking; a pleasant shopping experience. ”
Microsoft: ”Our mission is to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more. ”
As you can see, there is not one correct way of defining a mission. The mission statements of these three companies are all very different from each other. Microsoft’s mission statement is more high level and short, while Walmart’s mission is detailed and obvious. Citi’s mission statement is kind of in between these two.
Vision statement examples
Unilever: “Our vision is to be the global leader in sustainable business. We will demonstrate how our purpose-led, future-fit business model drives superior performance, consistently delivering financial results in the top third of our industry.”
Kraft Heinz: ‘To sustainably grow by delighting more consumers globally”
Kraft Heinz and Unilever are competitors in the same industry. Interesting to see that their vision statement is quite different, although they both mention sustainability as an important aspect.
How to Implement a Mission & Vision
A mission and a vision are only useful if they are brought into practice. The execution is as important as the definition. What is the point in putting a lot of effort into a mission and a vision, if it is not used for anything more than some text on a corporate website?
Below you will find several tips that may help you to implement a mission and a vision:
- Communicate the mission & vision throughout the organization. A good marketing strategy is not only applicable to products, but also applies internally for spreading the message in the mission & vision statement. As with any marketing strategy, there are several possible communication channels: Posters around the building, email communication, town hall sessions: there are many possibilities.
- Talk the talk, walk the walk: make sure people in positions of influence within the organization, leaders within a certain area or department (not necessarily senior management), are behind the mission statement and also put the words into practice with their actions. These influential people will influence others to do the same.
- Mission & vision statements should not be static documents. They should be evaluated regularly. The environment changes, as do companies. A company’s vision or mission may change over time. Of course, the statements should not change too fast either, since it takes time to implement them into the memory of the organization as well as external stakeholders.
- Link the mission & vision to team goals and individual goals. How are we, as a team, going to contribute to achieving our company’s mission? Linking the statements to objective goals makes it easier for employees to connect with the organization’s mission.
- Include the organization’s mission & vision into the onboarding (training) of new employees. By doing that, you make them part of it from the start.
What about purpose?
Next to mission and vision, some organizations also speak about purpose. While each company may have a different definition of these terms, purpose generally is about the reason for an organization’s existence. In that sense, it is similar to a mission. However, a purpose is generally more holistic. A deeper level. It is more about values and beliefs.
Oil Supermajor Shell: “Shell’s purpose is to power progress together with more and cleaner energy solutions.”
Mercedes-Benz: “First Move the World”.
Hopefully this article helps you understand the differences between mission, vision and purpose. If you have other thoughts about the topic, let me know in the comments!