Mission statement vs. vision statement

Mission and vision are two elements of corporate philosophy. Generally, they convey the purpose of a company and what goal it hopes to achieve in the future. Vision and mission statements perform an important function, especially when a company is being founded.

Vision vs. mission

It is not always clear at the outset if there is a difference between mission and vision statements. Both are focused in similar directions, but it can make sense to draw out a clear distinction between the two. Before doing so, it helps to understand the specific meaning of each term. 

Fact

A mission statement serves as an internal and external communication instrument. It should motivate employees and give them a clear focus in a company. A mission statement encompasses both the mission and vision that underpin a company’s corporate values.

What is a mission statement?

The mission statement is the basis for a vision statement. The mission describes the purpose of the company – that is to say, explaining why the company exists and what positive contribution it can make to customers and society. A mission should be defined as broadly as possible, in order to not limit the company’s future possibilities.

Examples of successful mission statements by well-known companies:

Google: To organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.

Amazon: We strive to offer our customers the lowest possible prices, the best available selection, and the utmost convenience.

LinkedIn: To connect the world’s professionals to make them more productive and successful.

Airbnb: Belong anywhere.

What is a vision statement?

On the basis of the mission statement, you can begin to formulate the company vision. This expresses a long-term goal or aspiring situation that represents the ideal image of your company. The targets you set should not be more than five or ten years in the future. As your company grows it should achieve goals and set itself new ones; adjust your vision as needed to reflect change. The vision is usually summated in just one sentence, therefore it should be easy and simple to understand while still evoking an emotional response.

Four inspirational company vision statements:

Google: To provide access to the world’s information in one click.

Amazon: To be Earth’s most customer-centric company, where customers can find and discover anything they might want to buy online.

LinkedIn: To create economic opportunity for every member of the global workforce.

Airbnb: Tapping into the universal human yearning to belong – the desire to feel welcomed, respected, and appreciated for who you are, no matter where you might be.

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Who creates vision and mission statements?

Ideally, the founders or managers develop the company vision and mission. However, other employees can and should be consulted during this process. The best way to do this is to let them judge different statements that have already been created. The employees are then best placed to assess whether the statements are appropriately identifiable and understandable. Prior to this, employee interviews can help provide input for the creation of the mission and vision statements.

The difference between mission and vision statements

The mission statement reflects the company’s benefits, while the vision statement represents the organisation’s higher goal for the future. However, at some point you might notice that these two elements cannot always be clearly distinguished from one another. 

The first challenge is shown in the fact that both of these statements represent the purpose of the company – the mission addresses it directly while the vision does so indirectly. Duplication should be avoided in any case. Ideally, the added value comes through the interplay of the mission and vision. A further difficulty comes from the fact that both statements ought to set a direction while remaining inspiring. There are different levels of intensity, however. While the vision statement primarily focuses on inspiration, the mission statement determines the focus. In order to help you distinguish between the two, the main differences are explored in the table below:

 

Mission statement

Vision statement

Question

What benefit does the company offer?

What are the company’s core competencies?

What does the company stand for?

Where does the company want to go?

Function

External function: what are the company’s social benefits?

Internal and external function: both the internal transmission of the message to employees and the external transmission to clients, partners, and financial backers

Time

The mission represents the current state of the company.

The vision describes the future state of the company.

Order

The mission is first to be worked out.

The vision is then built on the basis of the mission.

Form of action

Trendsetting

Inspiring

Why are the mission and vision important?

A complete foundation

Vision and mission statements create a common basis for a company. For this to happen, employees should understand and support the mission and vision. Even if “thinking big” is appropriate when formulating your vision statement, the goal should still be achievable. This will be the only way to motivate your employees and encourage them to work towards realizing the goal.

Define company values

Once your mission and vision are defined, you can begin to define your company values. The values should contain your company’s principles and credibly represent them.

Example: Adidas’s core values are: Performance, Passion, Integrity and Diversity

Create a business plan

Company founders work on business ideas by first creating a business plan. This makes it possible to first check whether an idea can be fully implemented. At the same time, a business plan serves as a timetable and information document. Founders also need to answer questions here, such as what purpose the company should serve and what they would like to achieve. Therefore, the vision and mission statements form the basis of the business plan.

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