If you read much business literature at all, it’s easy to become confused about some of the basic building blocks of business. I’m referring specifically to the mission and vision statements.
Why are they confusing?
- They seem simple, and yet can be surprisingly difficult to effectively write
- They appear to be irrelevant and unimportant compared to the actual business of doing business
- Business authors cannot agree on a definition to the point where you may see similar definitions for both the mission and the vision statement.
Patrick Lencioni in his book The Advantage trumps the whole issue by not using the terms at all. While this can be effective, reality is that these words are commonly bandied about. So, I’m going to share my definition of the use of these words based on extensive reading and the underlying definitions of the words themselves.
The Vision Statement answers the question:
- Why do you do what you do?
Why did you start your business? Was it to create a better mouse trap? To eradicate the mouse population? Or to find a humane way to remove unwanted visitors in our homes?
These are three different answers that each tell me something different about your company and why you are in business. In another blog I go deeper into this issue.
For now, just be aware that for some a vision statement is something that given enough time the company can and will achieve. In that case, as you approach achieving your vision, it is time to create a new vision statement.
On the other hand, some companies select visions that are very big and are more inspirational in nature. Since the vision is not achievable, the vision may only need to change if the underlying premise is no longer relevant.
The Mission Statement answers the question:
- What do we do?
A frequent format for the mission statement is:
ABC Company provides ________ services / products to _______________ (marketing segment).
A mission statement may change over time as the world changes around you. However, it will not change frequently. You are more likely to tweak your message over time than to have a complete re-write.
The mission statement is important because it gives you the focus to stay within your core business area when identifying strategies and tactics. If the opportunity you are exploring is not covered by your mission statement there are 2 possible explanations:
- Your mission statement is written too narrowly
- You are about to chase a shiny bauble (the more likely reason)
At the end of the day, I really don’t care what you call either document. You may give them any title you like including Mary and Joe. What I do care about is that you take the time to answer both underlying questions and that the written statements are meaningful and provide business clarity.
Have a great day!