About the Alliance
Leadership Matters Blog
LEAD. GROW. INSPIRE.
Do your Mission and Vision Statements Need Freshening Up? originally appeared on Forbes.com.
You’d be hard-pressed to find an employer whose organization didn’t undergo change in 2020. For so many, it isn’t a matter of whether change occurred but how much and what kind.
When you look back on all that’s happened and where your organization stands, you might even find that the very mission and vision driving your existence has veered, slightly or severely, from its pre-pandemic path.
That makes now a perfect time to review and perhaps revise your mission and vision statements. If you’ve yet to create one or the other (or both), don’t worry. It’s never too late to do so.
Why Vs. Where
Let’s begin by explaining the difference between the two. A mission statement is your “why” — it clarifies who you are, what you do and who you do it for. On the other hand, a vision statement tells interested parties where you’re headed and what you want to accomplish. In short, a mission statement explains why you’re here while a vision statement tells people where you’re going.
Most organizations begin with the former and eventually move on to the latter. If you’ve yet to create a mission statement, think carefully about — and discuss with your leadership team — why your organization exists and what differentiates it from competitors and/or similar employers. Some employers that have existed for years may find that writing or revising the statement renews commitment to their original purpose. Others may find that what they do has changed and so their mission statement needs to as well. Simply sitting down and discussing some fundamental questions can lead to insightful discussions and even healthy debate about precisely what it is you’re trying to accomplish.
Customers And Concision
There are various best practices for creating or revising mission and vision statements. Perhaps the most important is “know thy audience.” This primarily refers to your customers, clients or whatever market segment you serve.
Another important and challenging aspect of creating a mission statement — and especially a vision statement — is concision. On the one hand, you want to fully express yourself in a distinctive and memorable manner. On the other, you don’t want to present readers with a long paragraph that will cause their eyes to glaze over. Work with your team to find a consensus about the right length.
A vision statement is a bold and inspiring description of your desired future state, therefore it is aspirational and may never be fully achieved. It should generally be much shorter in word count than a mission statement.
For instance, the vision statement of social media platform LinkedIn is: “Create economic opportunity for every member of the global workforce.” Meanwhile, its mission statement is “[To] connect the world’s professionals to make them more productive and successful.” In this case, the organization’s mission statement is only slightly longer than its vision statement. Your mission statement could be significantly longer, but for your vision statement, aim for a sentence or two.
Tone And Endurance
Finding the right tone for your mission and vision statements is tricky but important. Think of it like a song: You want it to be not only catchy and uplifting, but also representative of your organization’s style and culture. And, all the while, you must maintain concision and clarity. This is a pop tune, not a classical concerto!
In addition, strive for distinctiveness. You want your mission and vision statement to set you apart, especially when you are in an industry where many organizations look similar on the outside. To this end, you may need to do some research into the statements of your competitors.
Last, but not least, aim to create mission and vision statements that endure. Although the process for creating them might be enjoyable, you don’t want to have to reinvent the wheel every year or two. That said, when circumstances or strategic plans markedly transform an organization’s purpose or direction, be prepared to act.
And that brings me back to my original point: Given how drastically life changed for everyone in 2020, now may be the ideal time to freshen up your mission and vision statements — or create them from scratch if you’ve never done so. You might even use the finished products to reintroduce yourself to your audience and community.
Although skeptics might say that mission and vision statements are only so many words on a page or plaque, those words can serve as both a succinct description and rallying cry for your organization. Don’t underestimate their importance or let them slip into irrelevance.
Original post by Lynda Silsbee, Founder of the Alliance for Leadership Acceleration and Member of the Forbes Coaches Council
Lynda Silsbee is Founder and President of the Alliance for Leadership Acceleration. She has spent more than 30 years creating and leading high performance teams. Along with the other LEAP Certified Coaches, she reports that helping managers make the LEAP to leader is one of the most fulfilling aspects of her work.