In a previous post titled, “How to Write a Better Company Mission Statement,” I discussed elements that make for an effective mission statement. In this post, I explain what a vision statement is, the difference between a mission and vision statement, and how to write a mission and vision statement for your organization.
As a reminder, a mission statement is a brief yet memorable statement that communicates the organization’s reason for existing. Conversely, the vision statement is a declaration of the organization’s aspirations. In other words, the vision declares where the organization wants to be in the future. Thus, the difference between the mission and vision is that the mission statement is the here and now, declaring the organization’s purpose. The vision is what the organization aspires to become in the future.
Mission and vision statements make up three essential parts of a business strategy:
- Communicate the organization’s purpose to stakeholders.
- Serve as a target for strategy development.
- Work synergistically toward measuring strategic goals’ success or failure; vision serves as a high-level leader while the mission serves as specific tactical measures.
Crafting an Effective Mission Statement
In this next section, I walk you through crafting a compelling mission and vision statement. Keep in mind that composing a mission and vision statement is a process that involves key stakeholders. It takes time to develop a compelling mission and vision. Four steps make up the method of developing, executing, and maintaining synchronicity with the mission, vision, and overall business strategy:
- The planning and process
- Content development of the mission and vision
- Monitoring and Control
Planning and Process
Planning the mission and vision statement requires that leadership includes all key stakeholders to create the mission and vision. Begin with your employees and let them drive the development of the mission and vision. Specifically, guide them in soliciting their input through the writing process. Additionally, request information from other key stakeholders that are impacted by your business. Key stakeholders could include, but are not limited to, community leaders, key vendors, or shareholders — if you are a publicly-traded company.
Furthermore, explain how each stakeholder group or individual is responsible for their contribution to the mission and vision. The key to the planning process is to get complete buy-in from all key stakeholders because they are responsible for seeing that the mission and vision are carried through.
Begin developing the content for your mission and vision by describing how your business future will look in five to ten years. Be sure to specify the best possible business future for your organization. When writing, consider both financial and non-financial goals.
In their book, The Mission Primer: Four Steps to an Effective Mission Statement, authors Richard and David O’Hallaron indicate that the best mission statements give attention to six areas. These areas are:
- What “want-satisfying” service or commodity do we produce and continuously work to improve?
- How do we increase the wealth or quality of life or society?
- How do we provide opportunities for the productive employment of people?
- How are we creating a high-quality and meaningful work experience for employees?
- How do we live up to the obligation to provide fair and just wages?
- How do we fulfill the obligation to provide a fair and justified return on capital?
The key to writing mission statements, or any goal, is to use the present tense. Write as though your organization already accomplished what you are describing. When you write in the future tense, you establish a mindset that your organization is always trying to achieve the mission. Writing in the present tense shows an attitude and habit that your mission will be accomplished now and not at some future point. It is the job of the vision statement to project your organization’s desired future outcome.
Communicating the mission and vision process comes down to exceptional leadership. Leadership within the organization must commit to helping employees and stakeholders identify with the mission and vision, ensuring that all parties understand, follow, and communicate them internally and externally.
Internal communication includes communicating up and down the chain of command. That is, front-line employees and middle management must embrace a culture of communicating to leadership the issues that arise with production and service that does not fall within the scope of the mission and vision. Employees must also take ownership of implementing processes that promote the mission and vision, communicating potential incompatibilities with the process and mission to senior management and leadership.
Additionally, leadership, management, and employees are responsible for communicating the mission and vision across organizational divisions and key stakeholders outside of the organization, such as community leaders. Any breakdown in the process of effective communication is a potential for straying from the organization’s mission and vision, thus moving the organization away from its original purpose or reason why they are in business.
Setting key performance indicators (KPIs) as part of the monitoring process, allows leadership to monitor the mission and vision statement’s relevance. Mission KPIs allow for tracking the progress of the mission toward organizational goals. If goals do not align with the mission and vision, adjustments may need to be made to the mission and vision to stay on course in reaching corporate goals. Look at KPIs as a thermostat for regulating temperature. If the climate gets too hot, adjustments cool things down. The opposite is exact for things that cool down.
Mission and vision statements are only as good as the leadership’s commitment to implementing, monitoring, and engaging them. If a leader is not committed to involving the organization’s stakeholders in implementing and living the mission and vision, then creating them is pointless.
Mission Statement Examples
No discussion about mission statements is complete without a few good examples to illustrate the concept. Below are several mission statements from top organizations that follow their missions. We know they support their mission statements because their organizations are financially successful and great places to work. Thus they embrace an inclusive working culture amongst their employees.
“Southwest is dedication to the highest quality of customer service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and company spirit.”
“It’s our mission to keep human connection at the heart of commerce. That’s why we built a place where creativity lives and thrives because it’s powered by people. We help our community of sellers turn their ideas into successful businesses. Our platform connects them with millions of buyers looking for an alternative—something special with a human touch, for those moments in life that deserve imagination.”
“Our mission is: To refresh the world in mind, body and spirit. To inspire moments of optimism and happiness through our brands and actions. To create value and make a difference.”
“Kaiser Permanente exists to provide high-quality, affordable health care services and to improve the health of our members and the communities we serve.”
“Our mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”
Developing the mission and vision statement takes time, commitment, and inclusion by all critical stakeholders inside and outside the organization. The mission is your organization’s reason why they exist. I want to share a video on How to Write A Mission Statement That Doesn’t Suck in my final thoughts. You will learn how most companies approach writing mission statements and how not to follow in their footsteps, but following a path toward writing a significant, meaningful mission statement.