Creating Vision and Mission Statements

Most organizations — from corporations to religions, start-ups to centuries-old industrials — have mission and vision statements. Through the evolution of contemporary management and brand consulting practices, these two important statements have often become confused with other critical business strategy tools used to guide an organization.

Creating a vision and mission statement requires the full understanding and participation of an organization’s leadership. It takes creativity and honesty, passion and analytics, a look in the mirror today and a telescopic gaze into the future. Here are five important steps to developing an effective mission and vision statement for your company.

1. Know the difference between a vision statement and a mission statement.

A mission statement speaks to the cold, hard facts. It describes what the organization does, its reason for being, and its general purpose. Both internal and external, the mission statement communicates business direction to employees, customers, partners and stakeholders. On the other hand, a vision statement focuses on the enterprise as it might look like in the future, say 10 years from the present. It should be emotional, inspirational and aspirational. Both are needed to stay grounded in your day-to-day goals while striving towards future endeavors.

2. Identify who your company’s missionaries and visionaries are.

A corporate missionary embodies your organization’s ideals and goals, effectively acting as a figurehead. A visionary is someone with the imagination and insight to look into the future clear-headed, and craft an accurate and articulate vision to drive the present into the future. Visionaries can be found across many categories, don’t just focus on senior leadership. Think Steve Jobs, Nelson Mandela, Basketball coach Pat Summit, physicist Stephen Hawking, Baseball’s Branch Rickey, rock star Steven Tyler of Aerosmith. Who are the visionaries in your company?

3. See today and the future from different perspectives.

There are many points of view for most organizations. There are employees and leaders, customers and clients, vendors, partners, stockholders and competitors. Both of your statements must take into account multiple perspectives. Your mission statement must ring true to employees today, and your vision statement must be emotional enough to inspire them towards the future. At the same time, you must balance and integrate all the other perspectives to create the best statement for the organization.

4. Choose the right language to communicate your statements.

These statements are not business strategies. They are meant to communicate clearly and simply — and to inspire. When writing a mission statement, avoid clichés and “corporate-ese.” Strong, powerful, and definitive phrases with active verbs ground your organization in the now. For vision statements, go for inspiring and emotional language to motivate employees in the future. Be professional and be profound.

5. Share your mission and vision statements thoughtfully.

Just publishing your final statements in an annual report or through employee communications isn’t enough. They become only words on paper. To bring them to life, organizations must share them through workshops, encouraging employees to interpret the vision statement and demonstrate how they will live it on the job. Share your mission statement in creative communications so your external audiences can see it and know you better.

Creating your mission and vision statements takes hard work and dedication across your entire leadership. When done right, you’ll have a guiding light for today and into the future.

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