Balancing act

Balancing act

Vision and Mission statements are core to any company’s or organization’s strategy. They encapsulate a brand’s objectives, purpose, and the direction it has set for itself. They send an important message to external and internal audiences alike.

In my work, I see time and time again how companies miss the mark on Vision and Mission statements – and how that causes problems of many kinds.

Where companies go wrong with Vision and Mission statements

Often, the terms “Vision Statement” and “Mission Statement” are used interchangeably. I frequently witness people and communications throughout a company using the phrases, “Our vision is,” and “Our mission is,” in many different ways, as if they are parallel in meaning and use. In this way, they become nearly meaningless.

Early in my client engagements, I define the difference between Vision and Mission statements. It is always illuminating for a leadership team to understand that each of these elements has a unique function and purpose. These statements should be useful, not mere decoration.

Another common challenge I encounter is Vision and Mission statements that are broad in the wrong ways and specific in the wrong ways. Very often, companies cannot effectively pursue their strategies, and the roots of that “stuckness” are often present in poorly scoped Vision and Mission statements.

In periods of growth or transition, insufficient (or non-existent) Vision and Mission statements can wreak havoc. Without these centering statements, the energy of a company (including people’s focus and attention, financial resources, etc.) starts moving in many different directions.

Having crystal-clear, purpose-built Vision and Mission statements can prevent that erosion by providing clarity about why and how an organization is moving a specific direction. Often, the process of developing aligned Vision and Mission statements also clarifies which direction(s) should be pursued.

What Vision and Mission statements should be

Effective Vision and Mission statements balance breadth and specificity. When properly scoped and crafted, each statement provides the necessary focus and flexibility in its definition of why and how a company does what it does.

Vision Statements:

Vision statements tell why a company, organization, or brand exists by describing the world it wants to contribute to bringing to fruition. But any company can say that they want to make the world a better place. It is important for an organization to make the size of the world it is describing appropriate to what it is doing.

To get there, we must consider not just the kind of world we want, but also the scope of that world. Does a company do what it’s doing for the betterment of all humans or to help a specific segment? What is the real scope of the organization’s intended impact?

At the same time, a Vision Statement cannot be so specific that it hamstrings an organization from embracing the ripple effects of its contributions.

For reference, here is Phrase Strategy’s Vision statement:
Organizations undergoing change and transition are empowered to fulfill their purpose and potential, moving forward with clarity, confidence, and purpose.

Mission Statements:

If a Vision statement expresses the big-picture “why” that a company strives toward, a Mission statement expresses how it contributes to that vision. Most companies are pretty comfortable with their “how” – we all know what we do, right?

And yet, I often meet companies that feel focused and clear about what they do, but the language they use to express it fails. Symptoms include being unable to get traction with target audiences, being constantly misunderstood, or phrasing things differently in each conversation because the current language is simply not working.

I insist on Mission statements that are action-oriented. An effective Mission statement becomes a touchstone an organization and leadership team can refer to to ensure alignment in everything they do.

For example, a strong Mission statement can help an organization determine whether a new product or offering should be pursued. And, if a new initiative does not fit, that either makes it an easy decision to discard the idea – or spurs a valuable conversation about whether the company is shifting in important ways. If the latter is true, the strategy should be revisited, and therefore the Vision and Mission, too.

For reference, here is Phrase Strategy’s core Mission statement (the full statements goes into further detail):
We empower organizations and brands that feel “stuck” to pursue their unique paths by discovering, articulating, and living their Essential Stories.

The value of an outside expert

When a Vision and Mission statement are well crafted and the leadership team deeply understands how it arrived at those statements, clarity, focus, and confidence result.

We craft a company’s Vision and Mission statements as part of our Essential Story Process and we capture them in a Corporate Phrasebook™ where people throughout an organization can be reminded of these touchstones at all times.

How do you know if it is time to create or review these foundational expressions of “Why” and “How”?

  • If your organization has never undertaken a strategic process to articulate its Vision and Mission, it’s time
    If your company is entering a period of growth or transition, it’s time
    If it has been more than five years since you have strategically revisited your Vision and Mission, it’s time

Having an outside expert resource facilitate this exercise is invaluable. It is so easy to become lost in the day-to-day of our work. Pulling up for air and being guided to take a bird’s-eye view of purpose and execution helps reset and realign everyone “on the same page” (literally!).

The team at Phrase Strategy has a proven process to discover and articulate effective Vision and Mission statements. We will ensure you move forward with confidence, clarity and purpose. Please reach out for a consultation – we’ll be happy to talk.