Why Vision and Mission matter and what makes for good ones (Part III)



Continuing on from Strategies and Tactics, in Part III we look at the importance of Vision and Mission. In Part IV we’ll look at the common ways people get Vision and Mission wrong and bring all concepts together with Goals in a simple, clear structure.

This was also prompted by a Twitter conversation where a poster told me in response to Part I that Goals and Mission were all the same and what mattered was how you used whatever you called it.

I’d love to agree but I can’t. That’s because I’ve found time and time again that these concepts do matter, are separate and handled properly can make a real difference. So this is to explain why and how.

What's Vision for and why does it matter?

Vision is all about “Where” – the ultimate destination and how our world will be different when we get there. This is less about the outcomes and more about their effects. Think of it like a picture of the future landscape when everything has been delivered, how has the world changed?

Key differences between Vision and Mission

It’s not the same as Goals because goals are both transitory and more specific – they will change and you’ll probably have more than one goal, but there’s only ever a single vision.

What’s the point?

If everyone knows where they are headed it becomes much easier to make decisions with data and defuse arguments – e.g. “If we do X, will that get us closer to the vision?”, “How does the way we do Y support the vision and could it be improved?”, “Doesn’t doing Z conflict with our vision?”.

So a useful vision can be a reality check and guide for setting goals and making decisions. It also helps bring everyone together.

If everyone knows where they are headed it becomes much easier to make decisions with data and defuse arguments

Of course many visions aren’t useful, as we’ll see, and if that’s the case it will probably be counter-productive, harming morale and progress. An empty and meaningless vision is all too common.

To test if a vision is useful, ask the question of many people in the organisation who work on the coal-face (not executives or managers): “Does this proposed vision help you do your job, does it help guide your actions and choices?”.

The critical importance of Mission


Mission is all about “Why” – why are we here and for what purpose does this organisation exist? This is critical because it defines and guides goals, strategies and decisions at all levels. Decisions become far easier and much less controversial when everyone can simply compare to the mission: “Is this the right thing to do given our mission?”.

If everyone in an organisation is clear on the purpose…this can be a hugely positive driver for collaboration, creative improvement and going the extra mile

If everyone in an organisation is clear on the purpose, and it is a meaningful purpose that they can support and embrace, then this can be a hugely positive driver for collaboration, creative improvement and going the extra mile.

The mission must be connected to an external outcome that benefits customers. That ultimately means making a difference to other people’s lives in some way – a direct connection to human factors. Without that, the mission will not inspire people within the organisation and will ultimately fail.

A mission is also often the starting point – start with a clear mission and purpose and then imagine the vision as the future destination for an organisation.

In the final part, we’ll look at common ways that people screw up their Vision and Mission and how to avoid them, plus we’ll put it all together: Vision, Mission, Goals, Strategies and Tactics.

Part I | Part II | Part III | Part IV

Posted in Decision-Making, Leadership, Strategy.

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