Getting Mission, Vision and Values Right

The Vision, Mission, and Values statements guide the behaviors of people in an organization. The Vision statement and Mission statement are often confused, and many companies use the terms interchangeably. However, they each have a different purpose. The Vision statement describes where the organization wants to be in the future; the Mission statement describes what the organization needs to do now to achieve the Vision. The Vision and Mission statements must support each other.

The Vision Statement

A Vision statement is a statement of an organization’s overarching aspirations of what it hopes to achieve or to become. Here are some examples of Vision statements:

  • Disney: To make people happy
  • IKEA: To create a better everyday life for the many people
  • British Broadcasting Company (BBC): To be the most creative organization in the world
  • Avon: To be the company that best understands and satisfies the product, service and self-fulfillment needs of women—globally
  • Sony Corporation: To be a company that inspires and fulfills your curiosity
  • Apple: We believe that we are on the face of the earth to make great products.

The Vision statement does not provide specific targets. Notice that each of the above examples could apply to many different organizations. Instead, the Vision is a broad description of the value an organization provides. It is a visual image of what the organization is trying to produce or become. It should inspire people and motivate them to want to be part of and contribute to the organization. Vision statements should be clear and concise, usually not longer than a short paragraph.

The Mission Statement

A Mission statement is a specific definition of how the organization will be different from other organizations in its industry. Here are examples of Mission statements from successful businesses:

  • Adidas: We strive to be the global leader in the sporting goods industry with brands built on a passion for sports and a sporting lifestyle.
  • Amazon: We seek to be Earth’s most customer-centric company for four primary customer sets: consumers, sellers, enterprises, and content creators.
  • Google: To organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful
  • Honest Tea: To create and promote great-tasting, truly healthy, organic beverages
  • Jet Blue Airways: To provide superior service in every aspect of our customer’s air travel experience
  • Apple: Bring the best user experience to our customers through innovative hardware, software, and services.

Notice that each of these examples indicates where the organization will compete (what industry it is in) and how it will compete (what it will do to be different from other organizations). The Mission statement conveys to stakeholders why the organization exists. It explains how it creates value for the market or the broader community.

Because it is more specific, the Mission statement is more actionable than the Vision statement. The Mission statement leads to strategic goals. Strategic goals are the broad goals the organization will try to achieve. By describing why the organization exists, and where and how it will compete, the Mission statement allows leaders to define a coherent set of goals that fit together to support the mission.

The Values Statement

The values statement, also called the code of ethics, differs from both the vision and mission statements. The vision and mission state where the organization is going (vision) and what it will do to get there (mission). They direct the efforts of people in the organization toward common goals. The values statement defines what the organization believes in. It guides how people in the organization are expected to behave—with customers and suppliers, with other stakeholders, and with each other. It provides a moral direction for the organization that guides decision-making and establishes a standard for assessing actions. It also provides a standard for employees to judge violations.

However, business owners cannot just create a values statement and expect it to be followed. For a values statement to be effective, it must be reinforced at all levels of the organization and must be used to guide attitudes and actions. Organizations with strong values follow their values even when it may be easier not to.

Together, the Vision, Mission, and Values statements provide direction for everything that happens in an organization. They keep everyone focused on where the organization is going and what it is trying to achieve. And they define the core values of the organization and how people are expected to behave. They are not intended to be a straitjacket that restricts or inhibits initiative and innovation, but they are designed to guide decisions and behaviors to achieve common ends.

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