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Demystifying Mission, Vision, and Values
Learn how to draft your own mission, vision, and values
Hi there, it’s Niels. 🤗 Welcome to my bi-weekly newsletter. This newsletter helps with the creation of valuable digital solutions, making better digital investments, and creating an efficient organization. Questions? Ask them here.
Vision, mission and core values are at the heart of a company. They are present on most companies’ “about page”. They are also usually featured on companies’ “career pages”. Everyone has heard about them and everyone has been exposed to them.
Still, I am wondering how many people really get what these are all about.
I have to admit that even while I am writing this very sentence, it’s difficult for me to really nail the difference between mission and vision.
From my experience, it frequently happens that employees have no clue what the “values” are of the company they are working for. It also occurs that employees don’t recognize the values published on their company website. What is written does not match what employees experience.
My online research grew my confusion. Different sources define vision and mission differently.
This is my attempt to demystify what the vision, mission, and values as the foundation of a company actually are. You will learn about their components like their roles, target audience, and what they influence or guide.
I will also present a step-by-step guide on how you can start drafting your own mission and vision statement including the core values.
It’s not only useful to create these statements for a company. It’s also very helpful to create mission and vision statements at a team level to guide and communicate the strategy to everyone involved.
You can also use the guide to get more insights about what you as an individual want to accomplish and what you truly value.
💡 Let’s first head over to the Cambridge Dictionary for some definitions.
Looking for Clarity
I found a couple of dictionary definitions that are roughly matching my current understanding of a vision:
an idea or mental image of something
The ability to imagine how a country, society, industry, etc. could develop in the future and to plan for this
And for mission:
Any work that someone believes it is their duty to do
And finally for values:
The beliefs people have, especially about what is right and wrong and what is most important in life, that control their behaviour.
The Roles of Mission And Vision Statements
Mission and vision both relate to an organization’s purpose and aspirations
Mission and vision statements together play 2 critical roles:
Communicating the purpose of the organization to stakeholders
Providing a high-level guide for the strategy
A mission statement communicates the organization’s reason for being and how it aspires to serve its key stakeholders.
A mission statement answers the following questions:
“What’s our reason for being or why do we exist?”
“How do we aspire to serve our key stakeholders?
“What do we as a company value?”
The stakeholders are the key parties who have some influence over the organization or stake in its future e.g. employees, customers, and investors
Look at this example from Lemonade:
“Transform insurance from a necessary evil into a social good. We’ve designed Lemonade to bring out the best in people while giving society a push for the better.”
The vision statement is a distilled future-oriented VERSION of the mission. Given the mission statement, the vision statement answers or highlights:
“What does our company look like once we achieved our mission?”
“What does the world look like once we achieved our mission?”
The strategy flows directly from the vision since the strategy is intended to achieve the vision and thus satisfy the organization’s mission.
Being future-oriented, a vision statement can really help to inspire and motivate people working towards the dream future for the company. A well-communicated and easy-to-understand vision can definitely boost employee engagement levels.
Take this example from Airbnb. Here the vision statement is only a more narrow version of the mission statement. The mission already includes the vision.
Mission Statement: “To live in a world where one day you can feel like you’re home anywhere & not in a home, but truly home, where you belong.”
Vision Statement: “Belong Anywhere.”
What About Values?
Core values are part of the mission statement. The format of a mission statement can differ and often companies use different formats to communicate the same thing. Sometimes:
the values are summarized in the mission.
guiding principles are added to elaborate on the organization’s values.
Values dictate behavior. They have to include verbs. They have to be actionable. It is not possible to execute based on the word “innovation”. “Look at the problem from a different angle” is something that you can do.
It has to be possible to decide what is right and wrong behavior based on these values. They should be used to guide employee behavior.
Values can also be an emotional touch point for your customers.
Let’s give some examples.
Patagonia summarizes the core values in the mission statement.
“We’re in business to save our home planet.”
Via its website, Patagonia has chosen to only communicate its core values. All of them together can be viewed as an elaborate version of the mission statement.
Build the best product
Cause no unnecessary harm
Use business to protect nature
Not bound by convention
Patagonia is a great example of a company that creates an emotional touch point for the customers. People that really care about creating a sustainable environment will appreciate the brand Patagonia together with its products.
Patagonia has not officially published a vision statement. The added value of a vision statement can be limited since the vision statement is a distilled or sometimes tagline version of the mission statement.
This is the mission statement from Starbucks:
to inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup and one neighbourhood at a time.
For more clarity, Starbucks also adds guiding principles that communicate the company values.
What follows are two of their guiding principles.
“It has always been, and will always be, about quality. We’re passionate about ethically sourcing the finest coffee beans, roasting them with great care, and improving the lives of people who grow them. We care deeply about all of this; our work is never done.”
“When we are fully engaged, we connect with, laugh with and uplift the lives of our customers – even if just for a few moments. Sure, it starts with the promise of a perfectly made beverage, but our work goes far beyond that. It’s really about human connection.”
At first don’t think too much about what belongs in the mission, the vision, or the values. Answer the following questions instead.
Problem: What problem does the company want to solve? Or what unmet need does it want to satisfy? Why exactly?
Business outcome: What does our company look like once we solved it?
Customer outcome: What does the world look like once we solved it?
What is more important? The business outcome or the customer outcome? Why?
Guiding Principles: What does the company value? List 4 to 6 guiding principles about how the company operates. You should describe:
What does the company feel is most important?
What behavior does the company want to promote?
What behavior does the company really want to avoid?
The guiding principles are your elaborate version of the core values.
Values = Guiding Principles
Summarize each guiding principle in a couple of words. Make sure it is actionable and it includes a verb.
Define the mission:
Mission = problem + most important outcome + summary of guiding principles
Can you generalize the values into one value? Is there one theme? What is the most important one?
Define the vision:
Vision = a narrow version of the mission that focuses on the most important outcome
Describe the most important outcome in a couple of words. Write it as a tagline.
💡 You can also duplicate this Notion Template to start drafting your own mission and vision statement.
It’s easy to confuse mission and vision statements even though they are (or should be) at the heart of every company. The mission and vision statement both relate to an organization’s goals and hopes for the future. Together they communicate the organization’s reason for being and they provide a high-level guide for the strategy.
The mission statement includes the core values which describe what a company feels is important. Values should be actionable and be used to guide desired behavior.
The vision statement is a more narrow future-oriented version of the mission. It describes what the world looks like once the vision is achieved and this mission is satisfied. Sometimes the mission statement already includes the vision.
Last but not least, I presented a step-by-step guide for drafting your own mission and vision statement including the values. It can be used at the company level, team level, and individual level.
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