The bedrock for any strategic planning effort is to be aligned with your company’s overall mission, vision, and values. The business exists for a reason and any plan that doesn’t support these tenets is bound to fail. This doesn’t mean the purpose of your business can’t change over time, but when it does so must your strategy. Often, however, mission, vision, and values get confusing, overly complicated, and hard to track.
A mission statement is present-based and designed to convey a sense of why the company exists to both its members and the external community. On the other hand, a vision statement focuses on the potential inherent in the company’s future, or what it expects to be. It is future-based and meant to inspire and give direction to the company’s employees, rather than to customers. Following are some examples of each.
The purpose of a mission statement is not the same as your company's slogan, which generally serves as a marketing tool designed to grab attention quickly. While you may include a mission statement in your business plan, it is not a substitute for the plan itself. It's also important to remember that a mission statement is not evergreen. As a company evolves over time, its mission and intent may also change. A mission statement will keep your company on track, but it shouldn't become stale or irrelevant, so revisit it every few years to fine-tune it, as necessary.
The mission statement answers key questions about your business:
- What are the opportunities or needs the company addresses? How are these needs being addressed?
- What is the business of the organization?
- What level of service is provided?
- What principles or beliefs guide the organization?
The mission statement should be short, yet resonate with both employees and those outside the organization. A statement should express the organization's purpose in a way that inspires support and ongoing commitment. The mission statement should set the tone for the company and outline concrete goals. Here are some examples of mission statements from high-profile companies. They describe what business they are in, and their intentions.
Patagonia: Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.
IKEA: To create a better everyday life for many people. Our business idea supports this vision by offering a wide range of well-designed, functional home furnishing products at prices so low that as many people as possible will be able to afford them.
Twitter: To give everyone the power to create and share ideas and information instantly, without barriers.
As you look at all this statements, what are their common elements? They don’t specifically set out a long-term goal, but rather focus on why they are in business and whom they serve.
Once a mission is established, it is possible to develop a vision for how that mission will be obtained. As you can see from the examples below, they are quite different from a corporate mission statement. A vision is a vivid mental image of what you want your business to be at some point in the future, based on your goals and aspirations. Having a vision will give your business a clear focus, and prevent you from heading in the wrong direction.
Honda: Six Hondas in every garage.
Microsoft: A personal computer on every desk.
NASA: A man on the moon in 10 years.
What do these statements have in common? Basically, they all describe a future state, one that embodies where the business wants to be.
A company’s values describe how it will behave or act as it works to achieve both its vision and mission. Values often define a company’s passions and commitments to live out their business goals in a certain manner. They describe in many ways what a company stands for and can anchor every aspect of a business in a set of commonly held beliefs and commitments.
Eric Jacobson, a former executive who writes about management and leadership, puts it this way: “Values are the things you care about as an institution—your core beliefs and what you stand for. They lay the foundation for your organization’s culture and social norms—not just how you treat customers, but how you treat one another on a daily basis. They should guide your decisions for strategy and programs, as well as your day-to-day operations. They should set the tone for how your leaders and your employees behave. And they should help establish your organization’s personality and identity.”
The following companies happen to be on The 100 Best Companies to Work For on Fortune’s list. Their core values statements play an active role in their business practices and foster confidence and happiness in their employees.
L.L. Bean: Sell good merchandise at a reasonable profit, treat your customers like human beings, and they will always come back for more.
Zappos.com: 1. Deliver WOW Through Service; 2. Embrace and Drive Change; 3. Create Fun and a Little Weirdness; 4. Be Adventurous, Creative, and Open-Minded; 5. Pursue Growth and Learning; 6. Build Open and Honest Relationships With Communication; 7. Build a Positive Team and Family Spirit; 8. Do More with Less; 9. Be Passionate and Determined; 10. Be Humble.
Bright Horizons Family Solutions: The HEART Principles: Honesty, Excellence, Accountability, Respect, Teamwork.
When mission, vision, and values are well thought out and manifested every day in how the business operates, they serve as a guiding light that keeps it on track to do what it says it will do with the highest level of integrity, passion, and commitment.
Do you have mission, vision, and values statements? If so, do they define why you are in business, what you hope to achieve, and how you demonstrate these goals through the everyday behavior of you employees? If not, where does each need to be improved to more clearly articulate what your business is all about?
To learn more, check out my book The Complete Guide to Building and Growing a Talent Development Firm.