Vision and mission statements are powerful tools that help lead and guide an organization and its employees. They keep organizations focused on what’s really important to them.
These statements also provide a basis for developing and following a strategic plan. Often times, businesses confuse the purpose and intention of the two statements, and these potentially powerful tools become misused and/or irrelevant. Vision and mission statements serve their own unique functions in an organization, and need to be embedded into the organization’s culture if that culture expects to thrive.
Let’s start with the basics. What are vision and mission statements?
Vision Statement. The vision statement describes the desired future state or end state of the organization. An effective vision statement is inspirational and helps answer the question “what would the organization look like 10 years from now if it were to achieve its strategic goals?”
For example, San Diego Zoo’s vision statement is:
“To become a world leader at connecting people to wildlife and conservation.”
Mission Statement. Put simply, the mission statement explains why the organization exists. It describes what the organization does and what the overall intent of the organization is. The mission statement typically provides more detail than the vision statement, but it’s important that the mission statement supports the vision statement.
San Diego Zoo’s mission statement is:
“San Diego Zoo is committed to saving species worldwide by uniting our expertise in animal care and conservation science with our dedication to inspiring passion for nature.”
Notice how San Diego Zoo’s vision statement broadly defines the organization’s “end goal” whereas the mission statement specifically outlines what the organization does and how it supports the organization’s vision.
Why are vision and mission statements important?
They’re important for an organization’s employees. In a broad sense, both vision and mission statements help an organization focus on what matters. It’s easy to lose sight of the bigger picture when our heads are down in the day-to-day activities, as we so often find ourselves. Vision and mission statements help provide employees with the “why” behind their daily tasks and activities. These statements are a constant reminder of what’s important to the organization, and ultimately, what should be important to the employee.
How are vision and mission statements most effective?
Vision and mission statements should be communicated frequently and consistently. It’s not enough to simply have the vision and mission statements listed in the employee handbook or on the organization’s website. And although it’s important to communicate the vision and mission statements during the onboarding and orientation process, don’t expect that to be enough for employees to actually buy in to those beliefs. In order for vision and mission statements to be effective, they must be embedded into an organization’s culture and leadership team. They must come first and they must be the guiding principles for the organization.
Leadership needs to support the values around the vision and mission statement. Leadership is not only responsible for buying in to these beliefs, but they must also exemplify the vision and mission. For example, if the organization’s mission statement is something along the lines of “providing the best quality service to all our customers,” but you see leadership sigh and act visibly annoyed when a dissatisfied customer is upset, that leader is not supporting the mission and vision of the organization.
People buy into the leader before they buy into the vision." - John C. Maxwell
In fact, one of the services Corporate Talent Institute provides for organizations is leadership development sessions. When we conduct and facilitate these sessions, our first sessions typically involves working with an organization’s leaders to create leadership commitments that align with the organization’s vision and mission. It’s important for leaders to not only understand the importance of these statements, but to be fully committed to them and exhibit these actions to those around them.
Create vision and mission statements so that they’re clear, easy to remember, and impactful. I’ve seen countless vision and mission statements that are uninspiring, confusing, or simply too long. Vision and mission statements are most effective when they are straightforward, concise, well-defined, and easy to communicate. This will help attract, engage, and retain customers and employees as well as build on that desired organizational culture.
Vision and mission statements should be kept up-to-date. It’s important to review these statements often. If they no longer fit your organization’s goals or purpose, it’s time to update them. The revamping process is best done with the help of leadership, or even with employees from all levels, depending on your organization’s culture.
Are you interested in exploring how your organization can build and strengthen its vision and mission statements to create a culture of purpose? Click here to explore our website. We'd be glad to set up a consultation call with you.
Whitney Ohmer is a Talent and Organizational Development consultant for the Corporate Talent Institute. To learn more about her organization, visit www.corporatetalentinstitute.com