Creating a Compelling Vision and Mission: Is it worth it and how to do it…

In the final part of this series we’ll look at a way to articulate the Vision and Mission of your business.  But first lets look at what Vision and Mission means.

Vision is the strategic intent of your business.  It must have a higher purpose than simply making more monet.  It can be considered as the ultimate goal, capturing the essence of success in a specific and measurable way.  In a world full of change it is the consistent element that helps you and the others in your team to make decisions

Your mission is a practical, credible and attractive description of how you will achieve the ultimate goal.  If the vision defines why the business exists, then the mission defines how the business will go about achieving it.  It needs to encapsulate its competitive advantage and how it will maintain it.  Implicit within the mission is how the business will interact with others: employees, competitors, suppliers, customers, etc.

Purpose can be described as why the chosen mission and vision are important

It often helps to look at an example to understand these distinctions.

The vision of ActionCOACH is:

“World Abundance through Business Re-Education”

ActionCOACH’s mission is:

“A coach in every business”

Why would we want to do that?  We believe that too many businesses and business owners struggle to achieve their full potential because of inadequate business education in our schools.  As a result, and through no fault of their owners, a significant number of small and medium sized business don’t make the full contribution to their communities that they could.  That is why we want to put a coach in every business.  That’s out purpose.

Our vision is a grand vision of World Abundance.  This sets the tone for all decisions made by everyone in the organisation.  It is no good just having a few coaches.  We need multiple coaches all round the world.  We need to use modern communication tools to reach millions of people not just hundreds.  It guides how ActionCOACH is led and managed and operated.

Is it worthwhile spending time creating Vision and Mission Statements?

We’ve all seen vision and mission statements that sound great but just don’t function in reality, and this tends to put us off spending time on this strategic level thinking and we focus instead on operational aspects.

However, articulating your vision can have many benefits:

  • Breaks you out of boundary thinking.
  • Provides continuity and avoids the stutter effect of planning fits and starts.
  • Identifies direction and purpose.
  • Alerts stakeholders to needed change.
  • Promotes interest, commitment and focus.
  • Encourages openness to unique opportunities and creative solutions.
  • Encourages and builds confidence.
  • Builds loyalty through involvement (ownership).
  • Results in efficiency and productivity.

Take a moment to answer the following questions:

  1. What does your product or service do for your clients/customers?  (Note: This is not what you do to provide it – but what it does for them.  How does it fill their need, alleviate their pain, or help to move them toward their goals?)
  2. Who do you provide your product or service to?  Be specific.  (For example: Geography, Age, Gender, Income Level, etc.)
  3. What is the driving force behind your business and how it positions itself in the marketplace?  Prioritize the following: Product Mix, Market Served (filling certain needs), Cutting Edge Technology, Low Cost, Operations Capability (eg Fast Delivery), Method of Distribution (Internet?  Face-to-Face? Etc.), Profit, Others…
  4. How do you or will you differentiate yourself from your competitors in the deliveryof your product or service?  (For example: Technology driven; Marketing (“low-cost provider”, “innovative solutions”, etc.); Production/Distribution (partner relationship, ease of delivery, warehousing)
  5. Describe the kind of relationships you wish to have with: Your customers, Your suppliers, Your shareholders, Your competitors, Your community, Your employees
  6. The newspaper honors your company as “Company of the Year”.  In an article they highlight your…
  7. Your services are meeting what critical need in the: community, market place, region, world.
  8. At sometime in the future, you have changed the history of: the community, marketplace, region, world, ther… (which apply to your Mission)
  9. How have you done this?

Based on your answers to these questions you can make a first draft of your mission statement – what you do, the state of your organisation and what you wish to achieve.

To help you craft your Mission Statement, here is a checklist:

  • Is the Mission future-oriented?
  • Is the Mission likely to lead to a better future for the organization?
  • Is the Mission consistent with the organization’s values?
  • Is the Mission consistent with your beliefs but not limited by them?
  • Does the Mission set standards of excellence?
  • Does the Mission clarify purpose and direction?
  • Does the mission focus on one common purpose?
  • Does the Mission inspire enthusiasm and encourage commitment?
  • Does the Mission set the company apart from the competition?
  • Is the mission specific to the organisation, not generic?
  • Is the Mission ambitious enough?
  • Am I excited about the Mission?
  • Is the Mission Statement no more than 1 – 2 sentences long?

Finally, draft your vision statement.  This is your 10 year goal, and incorporates the most compelling elements of everything you’ve done so far.

When creating your vision, keep in mind the question: “What is our preferred outcome?” and draw on the beliefs, mission and environment of the organisation.  Your vision statement, like your mission, should be specific to you.  Take care that you don’t limit your vision to the system, framework or environment that exists today, and be open to dramatic modifications to the current organisation, methodologies, technology and facilities.  To create a great vision avoid tradition, stereotypes and short-term thinking.  Also be aware that the grander your vision, the more likely you will be faced by nay-sayers and ridicule.  Don’t succumb to this.  In fact the more you hear negative reactions to the sheer grandness of the vision, the more likely you are to be on the right track.

Once you have your vision and mission statements drafted go back to your points of culture – your values.  Are they consistent?  What have you learned about your values and beliefs that may help in articulating your values better?  Answer these questions and refine your mission, vision and value statements.

Finally, start using these statements in meetings.  Don’t read them out.  That’s not what I mean.  But do mention them during discussions.  Ask “Is this course of action consistent with our culture?”, “Does this decision take us closer to our vision?”, “Is our mission being served by doing this?”, etc.  You get the picture.  Allow your staff to make decisions based on the culture.  Coach your staff to use the Vision, Mission and Values to make decisions.  Ask them what they would do to solve a problem.  Then ask them how that fits with your Vision, Mission and Values.

By doing this, your culture will come alive in your business.  This creates the kind of culture that allows business owners to step back from the day-to-day operations and concentrate on strategic decisions and business ownership.

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