Mission and Vision Statements

Unleashing the Power of Purpose

Does your team know your mission and vision?

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, too.

In this article, we'll explore how to create motivating statements.

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.

Purpose

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.

Application

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.

Examples

Some examples of mission statements are shown below:

  • Bristol-Myers Squibb Company (pharmaceuticals) – "To discover, develop, and deliver innovative medicines that help patients prevail over serious diseases."
  • ConocoPhillips (gas/energy) – "Our mission is to power civilization."
  • Walgreens (drugstores) – "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 (athletics) – "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 (online 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 (retail) – "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."
  • The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) (nonprofit) – "The vision of the ASPCA is that the United States is a humane community in which all animals are treated with respect and kindness."

Tip:

These examples are concise, focused and inspiring. Do everything you can to make your statements similarly succinct – long, rambling statements can show that managers haven't made tough-but-necessary decisions.

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.

Tip:

Developing a "winning idea" is a core goal of business strategy  , and it can take a lot of effort to find, shape, test, and refine it. To start, see our articles on USP Analysis  , SWOT Analysis   and Core Competence Analysis  .

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."

Example 1

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."

Example 2

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?

Our article on working with purpose   has tips that you can use to find the deeper meaning in what you do.

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.

Example 1

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."

Example 2

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."

Key Points

Mission and vision statements are concise, inspiring statements that clearly communicate the direction and values of an organization.

These statements can powerfully explain your intentions, and they can motivate your team or organization to realize an inspiring vision of the future.

When writing them, make sure that you understand your organization's USP, or "winning idea." You'll also need to clarify your organization's values, and distill them into statements that are concise, engaging and uplifting.

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Comments (18)
  • nagykamel wrote This month
    Business Motiviation Model by OMG might help to crysalize the differences between Vision and Mission Statement

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Business_Motivation_Model
    http://www.omg.org/spec/BMM/1.2/
  • James wrote Over a month ago
    Hi Everyone

    We’ve given this popular article a review, and the updated version is now at
    http://www.mindtools.com/community/pages/article/newLDR_90.php

    Discuss the article by replying to this post!

    Thanks

    James
  • Midgie wrote Over a month ago
    Hi sandeepkindo,
    Welcome to the Club.

    Indeed vision and mission statements do have some overlap. I would say that the vision statement is like the goal of what you want to achieve and where you want to go. The mission statement is the 'how' you are going to get there.

    So, in your case, what specifically are you going to do to become the leading law school?

    Hope that helps. Happy to continue bouncing around ideas to help you crystallize your vision and mission statements.

    Midgie
  • sandeepkindo wrote Over a month ago
    Following your tips, I have drafted vision and mission statement - why are they so overlapping? Have I done something wrong? See below:

    I. Vision Statement
    Our vision is to be the leading law school of wholesome legal education by realizing capabilities, knowledge, and humanism.

    II. Mission Statement
    To become the leading law school by providing a wholesome legal education that recognizes and nurtures diverse capabilities and creates knowledgeable and humanist lawyers and graduates.
  • Yolande wrote Over a month ago
    Hi jacalabre1

    A very warm welcome to the forums - it's great to 'hear' your voice - we hope to hear you on the forums often. Please don't hesitate to let me know if you need help with anything around here.

    WOW - I love your way of thinking!! I call myself a perpetual "WHY-er"(...yes I know - I made up the word). Why indeed, do we want what we say we want? Why are we trying to send that specific message? Is it because of preconceived ideas we have of what we think other people want?

    What do others think about using the '5 Why's' for this purpose?

    Kind regards
    Yolandé
  • jcalabre1 wrote Over a month ago
    Here is a difficult exercise. Run the "5 Whys" on step 1 of mission statement creation. See the 5 Whys, it is really quick http://www.mindtools.com/community/pages/article/newTMC_5W.php

    1. First identify your organization's 'winning idea'
    Why1: ....Wait why even have a winning idea? To win...but what does that mean? To 'create'? To 'achieve'?
    Why2:... well why would we want to achieve and create?

    Get stuck like me? Would you agree there is a wide range and depth in the source driving forces behind people's/organization's missions? What are where are some resources that effectively explore this rabbit hole? Are Mindtools and other members willing to go into research, teaching, and discussion on that topic?
  • Dianna wrote Over a month ago
    Thanks omarjerico,
    It's great to hear your "voice". I look forward to chatting with you more.

    Have you been finding your way around the Club? Is there anything we can help you with? Joining the community discussions is informative and thought-provoking so keep checking in and letting us know what you think.

    All the best!
    Dianna
  • omarjerico wrote Over a month ago
    For me, mission statement is not only the "what" but also the "why", vision statement is the "where" and "how"
  • Dianna wrote Over a month ago
    Hi horsecantr,
    The way we present mission versus vision statements is the classic, business school position and the differentiation that is most often used. Having said that, it doesn't surprise me that some organizations use their own definitions and because the terms are interrelated it's easy for overlap to develop. If you are talking to a general group of people I think you will find that the most common understanding is that vision refers to what you are trying to build, what you hope to accomplish, and what inspires you and mission refers to your purpose and what you intend to provide to the marketplace.

    So using the mountain example, the vision would describe why you want to help people climb the mountain and the mission describes how your mountain expedition will meet your climber's needs.

    I'd love to hear from others on this. The terms are so commonly bantered around so it's great to discuss like this and improve our collective understanding.

    Thanks for your comments and food for thought!

    Dianna
  • horsecantr wrote Over a month ago
    I have always understood the Mission statement to be...Why you are in business. The Vision Statement is a specific description of where you are headed in the next 3-5 years...i.e. what specific mountain are you climbing. From there you develop your organization wide strategies, long and short term goals etc. that will help you get to the top of your mountain.

    The Mission statement shouldn't change very often. The Vision statement might change after a few years if the Mountain your were originally climbing was a path to the next mountain.

    Just my 2 cents.
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