Mission and Vision Statements
Mission and Vision statements are the inspiring words chosen by successful leaders to clearly and concisely convey focus for their organisation. Properly written, they can powerfully communicate intentions and motivate people and teams to realise an attractive and inspiring common view of the future.
Mission Statements and Vision Statements do two distinctly different jobs…..
A Mission Statement defines the organisation’s purpose and primary business objectives. Its prime function is internal – to define the key measures of the organisation’s success – and its prime audience is the leadership team and shareholders.
“To become the number one food retailer in the whole of the UK by selling the highest quality, freshest farm produce, from farm to customer in under 24 hours on 75% of our range and with 98% customer satisfaction.”
A Vision Statement outlines why the organisation wants to exist – it’s human added value or definition of a better world that it wants to see. It concentrates on the future and it is a source of inspiration for others. For employees, it gives direction about how they are expected to behave and inspires them to give their best. Shared with customers, it shapes their understanding of why they should work with the organisation.
“We help British families to live happier and healthier lives by providing the freshest, tastiest and most nutritious local farm produce”.
Put simply, the Vision Statement should describe why it is important to achieve the mission.
Keeping the two separate
Many people mistake a Vision statement for a Mission statement and sometimes one is simply used as a longer term version of the other.
A Mission Statement provides a path to realise the vision in line with its values. These statements have a direct bearing on the bottom line success of the organisation.
Which comes first?
Mission Statement or Vision statement – it depends!
If you have a new start up business, new programme or plan to re-engineer your current services, then the vision will guide the Mission Statement and the rest of the strategic plan.
If you have an established business where the mission is well established, then the mission guides the Vision Statement and the rest of the strategic plan.
Creating a Mission Statement
- To create a Mission Statement, first identify the organisation’s “winning idea”. This is the idea or approach that will make your organisation stand out from its competitors and is the reason that customers will come to you and not your competitors.
- Next identify the key measures of your success. Make sure you choose the most important measures (and not too many of them!)
- Combine your winning idea and success measures into a tangible and measurable set of goals and remember to make them SMART
- Refine the words until you have a concise and precise statement of your mission, which expresses your ideas, measures and desired result.
Creating a Vision Statement
- Working from your Mission Statement where you can, uncover the real, human value in that mission.
- Next, identify what you, your customers and other stakeholders will value most about how your organisation will achieve this mission.
- Combine both of these elements and polish the words until you have a vision statement inspiring enough to energize and motivate people inside and outside your organisation – ask yourself is this really compelling?
- Features of an effective Vision Statement include:
- Clarity and lack of ambiguity
- Vivid and clear picture
- Description of a bright future
- Memorable and engaging wording
- Realistic aspirations
Leaders have the responsibility for communicating the vision and mission regularly, creating narratives that illustrate them both, acting as role-models/walking the talk and encouraging others to do the same.
They also have the responsibility to convert their Mission and Vision Statements (Purpose – what and why) into a set of core values for their organisation (how we will behave) and embody those into the culture of the organisation.
Culture and Values
Culture is a term to describe the complex and often vaguely defined set of shared values, beliefs, and assumptions that guide employee behaviour in an organisation – ‘the way things get done around here’.
- Values statements suggest the ways in which the leaders of the organisation will assess certain traits, qualities, activities or behaviours as good or bad, as productive or wasteful. They embody preferences about the ideal ends toward which the organisation and the individual should strive and they indicate how people are expected to treat each other. In this regard, values are often among the most constant elements of culture and the most resistant elements to change.
- Beliefs are frequently unstated (assumptions) but they reflect people’s understanding of the best ways of pursuing values. Critical beliefs generally deal with relationships to the external world (how to compete and direct the business) and people’s relationships to each other (the way the organisation works and the probable consequences of actions taken).
Dimensions of Culture
Shared values and beliefs generate behaviours and events that provide meaning about an organisation’s culture and how that culture fits with the organisation’s strategy. Your culture will be manifest in a variety of different ways:
- Structure (reflects values and beliefs about the amount of responsibility and trust that is given to lower levels of the hierarchy and beliefs about the external world).
- Systems and Management Processes (reflect values and beliefs about who is able and expected to use information to steer and control the business).
- Orientation to time (as an indicator about the relative importance placed on task achievement and relationships).
- Use of space (as an indicator of values and beliefs regarding power and politics; offices and office size vs. open plan; homeworking).
- Your attitudes toward leadership……
- Autocratic (leaders have the power and the right to exercise it).
- Paternalistic (leaders in power know best and will care for the better interests of employees).
- Consultative (all levels have information to contribute but power remains in leaders’ hands).
- Participative (skills and information at all levels are relevant to performance and power must be shared).
- Delegative (power mustbe placed where information and skill reside but leaders remain accountable).
- Collegial (power, information, skill, & accountability are shared in a partnership environment).
Leaders have the responsibility for defining the values and culture that they want for their organisations and ensuring that behaviours ‘on the ground’ conform to those expectations – reinforcing the good and correcting the bad.
It is often helpful to convert values statements into ‘behavioural indicators’ – practical examples of how a value can get demonstrated on-the-job and use these to show the way for the behaviour that they seek, whether internally or externally. For example, ‘the value ‘honesty’ is converted into ‘completes monthly reports accurately’ – the words ‘which means that’ help to make that conversion.
Left untouched values and beliefs will develop within an organisation by themselves, so it is critical that the leadership group takes control of this process before attempting to define its business strategy, otherwise a potentially unforeseen and negative cultural aspect might undermine or wreck a positive strategic intent.
Finally it is worth remembering the wisdom of experienced recruiters – recruit for attitude; train for skill. It is far easier to bring in staff who already share your values but might be short on some of the skills you need than hope to rebuild the values systems of new recruits who don’t!
Copyright: © Clive Weston, The Hartwell Consultancy, 2020