Vision statements and mission statements – what’s the difference?
In two of my courses (Blogging for Business and Marketing for Small Business) we discuss the role of vision statements and mission statements and it appears from those discussions that some people, especially small business people, remain confused about the difference between the two.
Rather than lengthen the course manuals with extraneous material, a short blog on the subject is probably the best way of explaining it. There is plenty more material out there on the web; here I will try and describe the two as succinctly as possible.
The short answer I give people is that vision is where you aspire to be while mission provides the roadmap as to how you get there.
A vision statement talks about the future of your organisation and where it is seeking to position itself vis-à-vis its clients. It should include both the purpose and values of your business.
By contrast, a mission statement addresses the means by which you achieve your vision and provides the strategy to achieve it.
Mission statements will change over time depending both on market conditions and the maturing of the business. Vision statements by contrast, since they are anchored in the future, remain fixed (or relatively so). Of course, the mission statement has to be consistent with the vision statement and reflect the core values of the business. Since it is essentially a ‘roadmap’ for business development, it also provides metrics against which you can judge whether you are reaching your goals.
It follows that the vision statement precedes the mission statement and should be formulated by the business owner or board of directors. It should be short, precise, unambiguous and understood by both employees of the business as well as potential clients. A vision statement, after all, is part of your branding.
Mission statements may be drafted by senior managers but need to be discussed with employees since ‘buy-in’ is essential to success. Such statements are internal rather than public documents since they speak to the ethos of the organisation.
A number of studies have shown that companies and organizations that have clearly defined vision and mission statements outperform those who do not. The reason is simple: with such statements, people can align themselves with the organisation and remain focus on their tasks. Without them, organisations and organisational components can become distracted and lose their way.