Mission, Vision, Values & Goals

In Business, Entrepreneurship, Interesting on May 3, 2010 at 3:56 pm

I joined an organization that is in the process of redeveloping its vision statement, mission statement and goals. Two questions came up when presented with the current mission & vision statements. The first was “what is the difference?” and the second was “which supports which?” One member of the group responded that the vision supports the mission; most others in the room nodded in agreement. I disagreed with the consensus but kept my mouth shut for the time being. Well, I am on the committee that was charged with the task of developing the mission statement, vision statement & goals, milestones and statement of values. The following is a summary of the definitions I’ve received so far.

  • Vision. An exercise of this sort begins with a vision statement, a declaration of an organization’s tangible expectations for the future. This statement should be developed first because it reveals the intentions of the organization under which one or more strategies for achieving it can be developed. The mission statements support a vision and so they go hand-in-hand. A key aspect of a vision is that it is developed in the interest of the beneficiary of the organization, not in the interest of the organization itself. A good vision statement is a memorable, forward looking, passionate, vivid, hopeful, motivating and compelling description of the state of things as it will one day be.
  • Mission. Once a vision for the organization has been established, a mission or strategy for getting there can be developed. A good mission statement gives rise to a purpose, a direction and/or a strategy that is easy to understand and can be easily adopted by those in charge with developing underlying actions, initiatives and objectives. Whereas a vision statement answers the question “What”, a mission statement answers the questions “Who”, “Why” & “How”. It is expected that over time, an organization’s mission can change while the vision remains the same. Visions, however, can also change, at which point its mission will necessarily change.
  • Objectives. While a vision speaks to intentions and a mission speaks to purpose, an organization’s objectives speak to its actions. When properly drafted, all objectives support a mission which in turn leads to a transformation of the organization in accordance to a vision. Whereas the mission statement is broad, objectives are specific. At the time of development, they should be achievable, observable and measurable. Observability and measurability allow for the development of milestones that monitor progress, identify inefficiencies and alert to the need for course corrections along the way.
  • Values. Often overlooked is the need for a statement of values, which provides a framework for decision making within an organization. Properly drafted, a statement of values reveals an organization’s belief system and allows decision-makers to apply those beliefs in weighing the need for tradeoffs.

This is as much as I’ve got for now and invite comments. If there is anything that was said here that doesn’t make sense or requires clarification, please feel free to comment below or send me a note via twitter. Wish us luck in this exercise.

  1. Very useful. Hadn’t given a thought to the diffences between all those concepts.

    • With the plentitude of meetup groups, structure is needed and I thought this would provide a sufficient framework.

  2. The Vision, Mission, Values, Objectives jargon is an invention of the acronym-infatuated Ivy League b-schools, whose institutional instructors needed to formulate easy-to-digest planning structures for the young, pliable minds of their students to operate in. It is nothing more than the basics of business propulsion:

    1) Here’s how we see the world
    2) Here’s who we are in the world
    3) Here’s what we intend to do in and for this world

    Let’s take the adult toy manufacturer Apple, Inc. They see the world as a bazaar of mass consumerism where everything and anything in the world revolves around the product user. “Where do YOU want to go? What do YOU want to see? What do YOU want to buy? What do YOU want to say?” ALL their products are personal products, some tweaked for business use, but all in all, Apple users are predominantly all about Apple users and that’s how the company sees the world, as an amalgam of infinite individual choices, all exercised through a handheld device of some sort, designed and supplied to the self-centered tastes of the consumer.

    Who Apple is in the world is the TRUE Window (sorry Messrs. Balmer and Gates) on the world for the individual. Movies, books, news, music, information, statistics, opinion, images, video, interaction, memory, storage, data, everything and anything that can be captured terrestrially or otherwise is done through the prism of the Apple product (iPod, iPad, i i i, it’s all about the I).

    This aligns with the world view of Apple, which is centered around self. If the world revolves around ME, then the products I purchase should focus on that perspective. The love affair of the public with Apple is more a love affair with oneself. Human interaction is superseded by digital interaction with humanity one gadget removed from any other humanity. It’s all about manufacturing one’s personal space in the absence of true personal space in the real world. You will find an Apple user more often with ear buds in place, happy to be in a personally induced audio or video trance, powered by Apple. You will more often see an Apple user feverishly sliding and tapping the glass screen of an i-NameYourAppleProduct, rather than with the phone to one’s ear or on speaker, actually speaking to a live person with a functioning brain. The Apple user wants to have controlled, dynamic, self-initiated/self-terminated interaction with the world, on THEIR terms. Apple builds its products accordingly.

    Apple’s intentions for what it wants to do for and in this world, is to serve as the conduit for all stimuli, visual, aural, sensory, aromatic and palate. All interaction with the external world can and should be initiated and conducted through an Apple device, as evidenced by the company’s product offerings and extensions. Apple wants to give the self-centered, self-directed occupants of its market space a means by which they can gather, consume, distribute and discard information and stimuli with minimal or no effort. Its products are designed for stationary consumption and interaction, the world at one’s fingertips. What they seek to give the world is the means to experience the world without actually getting up and doing it. That is their offering.

    To me, the vision/mission/values construct is used to baseline your organization within the social marketplace, i.e. every mature company has this written down somewhere, so should we, akin to audited financials and the expense account. It’s a checkbox. The successful companies, such as Google (no fandom expressed here), draw a schematic in which they live: Here’s how we see the world, here’s who we are in it, and here’s what we’re going to do in it. It’s the same, but also different, than the blog elements suggested above. Guiding principles have to be concise, guiding parameters have to be firm and clear, guiding business objectives have to be direct and digestable. Here’s the world, here’s us, here’s what we’re going to do. In my 20+ years in business, the good companies keep it this simple and HONE the view, the definition, the approach. Unsuccessful companies mimic and play catch-up and fall on their collective face (a la a certain Google competitor). Clarity and force are driven through this model, and in the right hands, there is no more powerful a construct in the industrial world.

    Thanks Hermann, your stuff rocks!

    • Raffy, you really put a lot of thought into your comments. Keep em coming.

  3. I think that you have it right Herm, and in the correct order. Vision drives everything. For example, the vision for my school is that we “embrace wonderment, through inquiry and discovery”. The mission is to teach students skills and stragies that transfrom them into decision makers and problem solvers. The objectives are tied into measureable academic goals. What we value are tolerance, respect and integrity. I like where you’re headed and would be curios to see where your exercise leads.

    • I am only now experimenting with leadership beyond my reach. Whether we are building companies or groups, there are fundamental values and missions that everyone should buy into. That having been said, I don’t remember the mission statement of any company on my resume. I hope this works.

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