Mission and Vision Statements

Great strategies start with a compelling mission, a clear and inspiring vision, or both.

These are articulated as Mission and/or Vision Statements.

Their role is to provide focus for a strategy, as well as to inspire and motivate.

Mission Statement

A mission statement describes a businesses main purpose. Why was it establish? Why should it continue to exist? How does it improve society? How does it serve its key stakeholders? If the business ceased to exist, what would they lose?

A mission statement should be inspiring. It should give employees a reason to wake up and bring their all to their jobs. It should cause stakeholders to root for the success of the business.

If we take the hotel in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel as an example, its mission statement should not be something bland like:

"To be the best hotel in Jaipur for elderly English people."

but, rather, something more inspiring, like:

"To provide the elderly with a vibrant and caring community in which to relax, socialise and find new meaning in life."

Some examples from well-known organisations:

  • BBC: To enrich people's lives with programmes and services that inform, educate and entertain.
  • Forbes: To deliver information on the people, ideas and technologies changing the world to our community of affluent business decision-makers.
  • Google: To organise the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful.
  • Caterpillar: To enable economic growth through infrastructure and energy development, and to provide solutions that support communities and protect the planet.
  • Medicins Sans Frontieres: To help people worldwide where the need is greatest, delivering emergency medical aid to people affected by conflict, epidemics, disasters or exclusions from health care.
  • Tesla: To accelerate the world's transition to sustainable energy.

Vision Statement

A vision statement describes what the world will be like once the business has succeeded. It should describe it from the point of view of its key stakeholders. It should paint with words a clear, vivid and inspiring picture of what success will look and feel like.

Vision statements should be future-focused, directional, specific, challenging, unique and inspiring.

Again, using the example of the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, we should avoid bland statements like

"The best hotel for old people in India."

in favour of something like something like:

"A world in which the elderly are not cast aside but are able to find renewed purpose through friendship and full, meaningful lives."

Some examples from well-known organisations:

  • Ford: People working together as a lean, global enterprise to make people's lives better through automotive and mobility leadership"
  • Alzheimer's Association: A world without Alzheimer's disease.
  • Uber: Smarter transportation with fewer cars and greater access. Transportation that's safer, cheaper, and more reliable; transportation that creates more job opportunities and higher incomes for drivers.
  • Caterpillar: A world in which all people's basic needs - such as shelter, clean water, sanitation, food and reliable power - are fulfilled in an environmentally sustainable way and a company that improves the quality of the environment and the communities where we live and work.
  • Wikimedia: A world in which every single human being can freely share in the sum of all knowledge.

Do you need both?

Often, businesses don't need both. The mission is to achieve their vision. And their vision is to fulfil their mission. In such cases, either one or the other is enough.

You can see in the fictitious case of the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel above, that either vision or mission statement would be sufficient. Both would probably be superfluous.

Other times, businesses find having separate mission and vision statements allows them to more fully express the purpose and ambitions.

It really depends on what works best for each different business.

Vision and Mission statements versus straplines

Businesses often use typically very short vision or mission statements as straplines for marketing and PR purposes. These may be summary versions of the slightly longer vision or mission statements that drive their strategies. Or they may use them interchangeably.

Many of the vision and mission statements you see on the web are really straplines.

See also:

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