The Difference Between a Vision and a Mission Statement?

One question I am asked regularly is – what is the difference between a vision and a mission statement? Now by putting this opinion out there, many may disagree and say it’s the other way around, but this is what I believe is the difference, and what I follow when working with customers to define vision and mission statements.

All you need to do is look at the words – vision and mission – to know in your heart that that this explanation makes sense right? I will let the global brand leaders speak on my behalf with the examples below, but I’m not surprised people are confused. When doing research to make sure I had the current vision and mission statements I’ve referenced, a lot of the professionals advising in this space have it the wrong way around and back to front! It’s confusing, and so I will put my stake in the ground and stand by my opinion below.

Vision

A vision statement is a short and inspiring phrase of what a business intends to become and achieve at some point in the future. It is something a company constantly strives towards and should always be positioned in a future focused way. It captures the essence of a company’s’ goal but does not explain how you are going to achieve those goals.

The most important thing a vision statement must do is inspire and energize its employees. If it’s that good, every employee in your organisation will be guided by it and remember it. Is yours that good? Or worse, is it hidden in the back room because someone forgot to put it up?

I believe that both vision and mission statements should be in every office where employees can see them and embrace the ideas. Everyone needs to “live” them and be reminded of them as the core drivers of business, or there’s absolutely no point doing it.

Examples of Vision Statements

A company I admire – Virgin:

  • “I believe that in the future we will be able to enjoy healthy & fulfilling lifestyles whilst minimising the negative impact we have on the world” Richard Branson

Another great company – Boeing  

  • “People working together as one global enterprise for aerospace leadership”

A company famous for its statements Nike:

  • “To be the number one athletic company in the world”

A company always focused on messaging is Microsoft and they have a great vision, although it’s a bit long and verging on a mission statement:

  • “To be led by a globally diverse workforce that consistently delivers outstanding business results, understands the various cultural demands of a global marketplace, is passionate about technology and the promise it holds to tap human potential, and thrives in a corporate culture where inclusive behaviors are valued

And one of the great companies in the world Google –  (check out this link for a PPT on Google’s vision and strategy – definitely worth a look)

  • “Organise World’s information and make it universally accessible and useful”

Just if you’re interested, my company, SAJE, vision statement is

  • “To be true to ourselves and others in everything we do”

Mission

A mission statement clarifies an organisations purpose, and while longer than a vision statement (most are around one paragraph) it should still be unambiguous and to the point. You should integrate socially meaningful positions for your company, measurable criteria and take it to a higher level. A mission statement could include:

  • Your moral stance – e.g. an environmentally responsible company
  • How you want to be perceived as an organisation
  • Your primary business focus and the goals you are working towards
  • Who you target and who you care about – don’t forget to honour your employees – e.g. we hire the best and brightest, delivering promising careers, etc..
  • A very high level description of what you offer
  • Your presence
  • How you expect to grow

Examples of great phrases to include in mission statements are:

  • We believe
  • We envision
  • We are driven to
  • We will always
  • We design
  • We lead
  • To deliver
  • To exceed
  • Etc…

Examples of Mission Statements

Another amazing company – Apple – although their mission statement is a bit boring

  • Apple designs Macs, the best personal computers in the world, along with OS X, iLife, iWork, and professional software. Apple leads the digital music revolution with its iPods and iTunes online store. Apple reinvented the mobile phone with its revolutionary iPhone and App Store, and has recently introduced its magical iPad which is defining the future of mobile media and computing devices.

An inspired company – Ben & Jerry’s who have a three-part mission statement that is all inter-related:

  • Product Mission
    To make, distribute and sell the finest quality all natural ice cream and euphoric concoctions with a continued commitment to incorporating wholesome, natural ingredients and promoting business practices that respect the Earth and the Environment.
  • Economic Mission
    To operate the Company on a sustainable financial basis of profitable growth, increasing value for our stakeholders and expanding opportunities for development and career growth for our employees.
  • Social Mission
    To operate the company in a way that actively recognizes the central role that business plays in society by initiating innovative ways to improve the quality of life locally, nationally and internationally

One of the Great companies is Harley Davidson and its mission statement is:

  • “We fulfil dreams through the experience of motorcycling, by providing to motorcyclists and to the general public an expanding line of motorcycles and branded products and services in selected market segments.”

Although I’ve also seen “Screw it, Let’s Ride” attributed to its CEO.

I definitely think B2B companies could learn a lot by reviewing B2C companies vision and mission statements.

Of course, there are other aspects to be developed, like business philosophies (here’s Google’s) and values, but this is a good start for companies wanting to head down this very rewarding road.

Let me know if you agree?

Andrea Edwards

Managing Director

SAJE

PS if you like what you read, please do share it. Alternatively, if you know someone who’d enjoy it, pass it on. You can sign up here to get our blogs directly in your inbox, you can like us on Facebook and get them in your feed, or follow us on Twitter @SAJEIdeas

PPS I’ve tried to find the latest vision and mission statements on each companies’ corporate Website and these are the latest to the best of my knowledge. Apologies to any company who has since updated their statements – but then, your new versions are too hard to find!

  10 comments for “The Difference Between a Vision and a Mission Statement?

  1. September 8, 2011 at 5:00 pm

    Hey Andrea

    Nice work. But I have to disagree with you on the Apple point. They might claim that’s a mission statement, but I would call that a boilerplate. That’s why its boring. It says what they do today, there’s no future piece.

    I like to think of Microsoft’s vision in the 90s (so I’m told, obvs I wasn’t there…) – a PC on every desk. That worked!

    Since we’re on the topic of things that get confused, how about strategy vs tactics. How many plans have you seen where those two are used interchangeably? I’d be interested in your view on that.

    Jane

    Like

    • September 8, 2011 at 7:42 pm

      Jane, I agree with you re Apple, but it was clearly positioned as their mission statement on the Website, a mission statement that was quite hard to find I should add. I’m just amazed that such a visionary company would say that this is their mission? And MS – that was always one of their best indeed.

      Strategy and tactics – mate, drives me nuts. It’s like goal and objectives. It doesn’t take much effort to clarify these things surely? But then, when researching the difference between a vision and a mission, it was confusing too. Maybe it’s all those years we’ve got behind us that makes these things slightly clearer? 🙂

      Hugs
      Andrea

      Like

  2. September 9, 2011 at 3:22 pm

    I tend to think of them as
    Vision – what you want,
    MIssion as how you will do it.
    If you can focus on your vision in 140 characters of less, then you are on the way.

    Like

    • September 9, 2011 at 3:58 pm

      That’s it Phil! Amazing how confusing it’s all become xx

      Like

  3. Ramesh
    June 19, 2013 at 10:04 pm

    Excellent inforamtion… thanks Andrea

    Like

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