Unleashing the power of purpose … Mission statements and vision statements
July 27, 2015
Imagine going to work each day, full of purpose and conviction. You strongly believe in your organization’s values, and you are passionately committed to its mission. Because you understand the good that your organization does in the world, you love what you do. You’re happy to come into the office, and you put your heart and soul into your work, because you know it matters.
People can be genuinely inspired if their organization has a compelling vision and a clear, worthwhile mission; and these can be powerfully expressed in well-crafted mission and vision statements. These statements can be highly motivating when they are expressed clearly and with intent, and when they are communicated effectively to everyone in the organization. They also express your organization’s purpose to customers, suppliers and the media, on whom they can have the same effect.
Mission and Vision Statements Explained
These statements are the words leaders use to explain an organization’s purpose and direction. When expressed clearly and concisely, they can motivate your team, or the organization as a whole, with an inspiring vision of the future.
The two statements do distinctly different jobs.
Mission statements define the organization’s purpose and primary objectives. These statements are set in the present tense, and they explain why you exist as a business, both to members of the organization and to people outside it. Mission statements tend to be short, clear and powerful.
Vision statements also define your organization’s purpose, but they focus on its goals and aspirations. These statements are designed to be uplifting and inspiring. They’re also timeless: even if the organization changes its strategy, the vision will often stay the same.
Usually, people write these statements for an organization, or for an organizational unit or a team. You can also create statements to define the goals of long-term projects or initiatives.
Some examples of mission statements are shown below:
- Bristol-Myers Squibb Company (pharma) – “To discover, develop, and deliver innovative medicines that help patients prevail over serious diseases.”
- ConocoPhillips (energy) – “Our mission is to power civilization.”
- Walgreens (retail) – “To be the most trusted, convenient multichannel provider and advisor of innovative pharmacy, health and wellness solutions, and consumer goods and services in communities across America.”
- Nike (sportswear) – “To bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world.”
- The Dow Chemical Company (chemicals) – “To passionately create innovation for our stakeholders at the intersection of chemistry, biology and physics.”
Some examples of vision statements are shown below:
- Amazon (retail) – “Our vision is to be earth’s most customer-centric company where customers can find and discover anything they might want to buy online… at the lowest possible prices.”
- PepsiCo (consumer goods) – “Our vision is put into action through programs and a focus on environmental stewardship, activities to benefit society, and a commitment to build shareholder value by making PepsiCo a truly sustainable company.”
- Amnesty International (nonprofit) – “Our vision is of a world in which every person – regardless of race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or gender identity – enjoys all of the human rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other internationally recognized human rights standards.”
- Ikea (retail) – “To create a better everyday life for the many people.”
How to Create a Mission Statement
To develop your mission statement, follow the steps below.
Step 1: Develop Your Winning Idea
First, identify your organization’s “winning idea,” or unique selling proposition (USP). This is the idea or approach that makes your organization stand out from its competitors, and it is the reason that customers come to you and not your competitors.
Step 2: Clarify Your Goal
Next, make a short list of the most important measures of success for this idea.
For instance, if your winning idea is to create cutting-edge products in a particular industry, how will you know when you’ve accomplished this goal? If your idea is to provide excellent customer service in an area, what key performance indicator will let you know that your customers are truly satisfied?
You don’t have to include exact figures here, but it’s important to have a general idea of what success looks like, so that you know when you’ve achieved it.
Combine your winning idea and success measures into a general, but measurable goal. Refine the words until you have a concise statement that expresses your ideas, measures and a desired result.
Keep this statement in the present tense, and make sure it is short, simple, clear, and free of jargon. Yes, the language needs to be inspiring, but don’t include adjectives just so it “sounds better.”
Take the example of a produce store, “Farm Fresh Produce”, whose winning idea is “providing farm freshness.” The owner identifies two key measures of her success: freshness and customer satisfaction. She creates the following mission statement, which combines the winning idea and her measures of success:
“To be the number one produce store in Main Town by selling the highest quality, freshest farm produce directly from farm to customer, with high customer satisfaction.”
Carl has just become the leader of a new team. The team will focus on one key project: streamlining the organization’s internal databases, so that the entire system runs smoothly and without problems.
With this in mind, Carl creates a mission statement to guide his team’s understanding of their purpose:
“Our team’s goal is to streamline our organization’s database management system within 12 months. We will develop a new system that is easy to use, and reduces the frequency of user errors.”
How to Create a Vision Statement
Step 1: Find the Human Value in Your Work
First, identify your organization’s mission. Then uncover the real, human value in that mission. For example, how does your organization improve people’s lives? How do you make the world a better place?
Step 2: Distill Into Values
Next, identify what you, your customers and other stakeholders value the most about how your organization will achieve this mission. Distill these into values that your organization has, or should have.
Some examples of values include excellence, integrity, teamwork, originality, equality, honesty, freedom, service, and strength.
If you have a hard time identifying your organization’s values, talk to your colleagues and team members. What values do they think the organization stands for, or that it should stand for?
Step 3: Combine Your Mission and Values
Combine your mission and values, and polish your words until you have an inspiring statement that will energize people, inside and outside your organization.
It should be broad and timeless, and it should explain why the people in your organization do what they do.
The owner of Farm Fresh Produce examines what she, her customers and her employees value about her mission.
The four most important values that she identifies are freshness, healthiness, tastiness, and the “local-ness” of the produce. Here’s the vision statement that she creates and shares with employees, customers and farmers alike:
“We encourage the families of Main Town to live happier and healthier lives by providing the freshest, tastiest, and most nutritious local produce: from local farms to your table in under 24 hours.”
Carl looks at the values that are key to achieving this goal, and considers his team’s mission statement. He identifies several important values, such as challenge, dependability and teamwork. He then creates this statement that combines his team’s mission and values:
“We will challenge our skills and abilities, and create a database system that’s strong, dependable and intuitive, allowing our colleagues to work quickly and effortlessly.”