Strategic Vision Statement
What is a vision:
Vision statement provides direction and inspiration for organizational goal setting.
Vision is where you see your self at the end of the horizon OR milestone therein. It is a single statement dream OR aspiration. Typically a vision has the flavors of 'Being Most admired', 'Among the top league', 'Being known for innovation', 'being largest and greatest' and so on.
Typically 'most profitable', 'Cheapest' etc. don’t figure in vision statement. Unlike goals, vision is not SMART. It does not have mathematics OR timelines attached to it.
Vision is a symbol, and a cause to which we want to bond the stakeholders, (mostly employees and sometime share-holders). As they say, the people work best, when they are working for a cause, than for a goal. Vision provides them that cause.
Vision is long-term statement and typically generic & grand. Therefore a vision statement does not change unless the company is getting into a totally different kind of business.
Vision should never carry the 'how' part of vision. For example ' To be the most admired brand in Aviation Industry' is a fine vision statement, which can be spoiled by extending it to' To be the most admired brand in the Aviation Industry by providing world-class in-flight services'. The reason for not including 'how' is that 'how' may keep on changing with time.
Challenges related to Vision Statement:
Putting-up a vision is not a challenge. The problem is to make employees engaged with it. Many a time, terms like vision, mission and strategy become more a subject of scorn than being looked up-to. This is primarily because leaders may not be able to make a connect between the vision/mission and people’s every day work. Too often, employees see a gap between the vision, mission and their goals & priorities. Even if there is a valid/tactical reason for this mis-match, it is not explained.
Horizon of Vision:
Vision should be the horizon of 5-10 years. If it is less than that, it becomes tactical. If it is of a horizon of 20+ years (say), it becomes difficult for the strategy to relate to the vision.
Features of a good vision statement:
- Easy to read and understand.
- Compact and Crisp to leave something to people’s imagination.
- Gives the destination and not the road-map.
- Is meaningful and not too open ended and far-fetched.
- Excite people and make them get goose-bumps.
- Provides a motivating force, even in hard times.
- Is perceived as achievable and at the same time is challenging and compelling, stretching us beyond what is comfortable.
Vision is a dream/aspiration, fine-tuned to reality:
The Entire process starting from Vision down to the business objectives, is highly iterative. The question is from where should we start. We strongly recommend that vision and mission statement should be made first without being colored by constraints, capabilities and environment. This can said akin to the vision of armed forces, that’s 'Safe and Secure country from external threats'. This vision is a non-negotiable and it drives the organization to find ways and means to achieve their vision, by overcoming constraints on capabilities and resources. Vision should be a stake in the ground, a position, a dream, which should be prudent, but should be non-negotiable barring few rare circumstances.
What is a mission:
Mission of an organization is the purpose for which the organization is. Mission is again a single statement, and carries the statement in verb. Mission in one way is the road to achieve the vision. For example, for a luxury products company, the vision could be 'To be among most admired luxury brands in the world' and mission could be 'To add style to the lives'
A good mission statement will be :
- Clear and Crisp: While there are different views, We strongly recommend that mission should only provide what, and not 'how and when'. We would prefer the mission of 'Making People meet their career' to 'Making people meet their career through effective career counseling and education'. A mission statement without 'how & when' element leaves a creative space with the organization to enable them take-up wider strategic choices.
- Have to have a very visible linkage to the business goals and strategy: For example you cannot have a mission (for a home furnishing company) of 'Bringing Style to People’s lives' while your strategy asks for mass product and selling. Its better that either you start selling high-end products to high value customers, OR change your mission statement to 'Help people build homes'.
- Should not be same as the mission of a competing organization. It should touch upon how its purpose it unique.
Mission follows the Vision:
The Entire process starting from Vision down to the business objectives, is highly iterative. The question is from where should be start. I strongly recommend that mission should follow the vision. This is because the purpose of the organization could change to achieve their vision.
For example to achieve the vision of an Insurance company 'To be the most trusted Insurance Company', the mission could be first 'making people financially secure' as their emphasis is on Traditional Insurance product. At a later stage the company can make its mission as 'Making money work for the people' when they also include the non-traditional unit linked investment products.