Developing Vision and Mission Statements that Inspire Action
Vision and mission statements (VMS) are the first strategic effort a business should undertake.1 The Foundation Centre describes why perfectly:
“Vision and mission statements should articulate the essence of your organization’s beliefs and values and define its place in the world. They establish the long-term direction that guides every aspect of an organization’s daily operations.”2
Read Benefits of Vision and Mission Statements for detailed definitions of each.
Visions are most effective when they are short and focus on a far off goal that your employees can rally behind. For example, most of your employees can relate to the feeling of wanting to be “the best” at something, or wanting to be “known” for something.
Mission statements are more detailed, giving you the opportunity to explore themes in more detail, such as:
- Beliefs and principles
- Ideal customer(s)
- Scope of work (product, target market or geography-related)
- Commitment to financial, social or strategic objectives
- Distinct competitive advantages or corporate identifiers
- Value-added benefits for stakeholders3
Most mission statements refer to a specific stakeholder group:
- 75% of them refer to customers
- 50-66% refer to employees
- 50% refer to investors
Society and suppliers are mentioned least, but that doesn’t mean they are not important. Mentioning one stakeholder group over another does, however, help employees understand organizational priorities, and therefore can positively influence employee behaviour towards achieving certain overarching goals.4
Depending on the complexity of your organization and its goals, there may be a lot or very little you feel you need to cover in your mission statement. But beware: mission statements that are either too long or too short will likely have less impact on employee behaviour:
- If it is too long, employees may not read the whole mission, or will have a harder time committing all its goals to memory
- If it is too short, it likely is not detailed enough to describe how employees are expected to accomplish each goal. Read Mission Statement Impact on Financial Performance to find out why the “how” of a mission statement is important.
While every mission statement is different, the average length is about 45 words, based on our inspection of 100 Fortune 500 company mission statements.
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