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Mission Statements vs Vision Statements: who cares?

It’s easy to dismiss the idea of a company mission statement, but a good one can have a number of benefits. Providing a clear sense of direction for the company can’t be a bad thing. It can also set expectations for employees and customers, as well as communicating the company’s values and purpose to customers and investors. Some advocates say that a mission statement also improves decision-making, ensuring that all decisions are taking the business in the same direction.

So I’d say that we should care about having a mission statement. But what about a vision statement? Is that crossing the line into management gobbledegook? Most examples we’re shown of corporate vision statements seem very wishy-washy to me. And yet we’re told that – especially in small, growing firms – they’re great things to have. So can we make the idea work?

Where do we want to go?

If a mission statement outlines the purpose, strategy and audience of a company (“What do we do, and why do we do it?”), a vision statement should answer the question, “Where do we want to go?” in order to define and communicate the company’s long-term goals and aspirations.

Now, for those of us who don’t have a vision statement, it can be hard to create one from just that definition. But that’s because we actually don’t know where we want to go. And if we think that we should know where we’re going, perhaps it’s worth the exercise of creating such a statement.

Clear and realistic

A good vision statement would be clear, realistic and describe a successful future. This slideshow gives lots of examples, from the largest companies in the world, and to be honest, in the main they’re not a great advert for what vision statements can offer. Most are vague and unhelpful. But there are a few which hint at usefulness, such as Gazprom’s vision “to establish itself as a leader among global energy companies by entering new markets, diversifying its activities and ensuring reliable supplies.” These are specific routes to growth.

So, should we care about a vision statement? Again, I’d say yes, but only if it’s genuinely going to make a statement about the route the company is trying to take to meet its aims.