Strategic Planning For Business


2009/03/19

Strategic Planning - The Vision Statement Vs The Mission Statement

Category: Strategic Planning For Business – Author: admin – 1:05 pm

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If you lead or have led any kind of an organization you no doubt had a clear idea of where you wanted your organization to go - your vision. Perhaps you saw yourself as the leader in your field or recognized for outstanding customer service. Whatever your vision, it was yours and yours alone.

But did you mistake your vision for the mission?

I saw a company once that listed its mission as producing a product with minimum impact on the environment.

While certainly a noble idea, I would ask if they were willing to sacrifice the success of their business to reduce their impact on the environment. Really, their mission was to produce the product.

Doing so in an environmentally sensitive way was certainly a key result they wanted and should be a central theme in the plan. This environmental concern will definitely impact their efforts, but it wasn’t the mission. I suspect though that it was the vision of the company’s owner.

So the mission was to produce a product but the owner’s vision was to be a company that produced a great product in an environmentally friendly way.

In another example, a non-profit organization I worked with wanted to restart a thrift store. They said their mission was to provide a place where people could sell their used and unwanted items.

I asked what the proceeds from those sales would be used for and was told the store’s profits supported several local charities. So, I asked if, considering overhead expenses and very generous consignment policies, they would be willing to forgo the charitable gifts as long as people had a place to bring their used and unwanted items.

At that point the light went on and the organization developed a mission statement spelling out that their prime reason for being was to raise money for charities. The manager then called all the workers together and explained the true mission.

There was a noticeable change in the store and the next two years were the most successful in recent history.

As I said, the leader owns the vision for the organization he or she leads. This vision can be lofty and challenging, a concept that is bold and far reaching. It is leaders with great visions who motivate others to succeed and accomplish great things.

To create a vision statement, consider what you would ideally like to accomplish. Don’t worry about what stands in the way, what do you really want to do?

In 1968, Martin Luther King stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. and delivered what has become one of the most famous speeches in American history.

His “I have a dream…” speech clearly illustrated his vision. King saw what needed to be done. He knew what the mission was, but so did many others. He was a major leader in the civil rights movement because he had a vision of what should be…he had a dream and he was able to articulate that dream to the masses. His vision touched a chord and led to real change.

A mission statement on the other hand must be more concrete and define specifically what the organization does.

It must be short and succinct. I was surprised to see a large corporation’s mission statement that was several pages long. How many employees actually read that mission statement? Many times, when I ask what their mission is, employees can’t answer.

A few years ago, I was assigned to lead an organization with a mission statement that attempted to cover everything they did. No one really knew what it meant, but it took up a lot of space on the website!

I gathered my leadership team and we created a new statement, clearly focusing us on what was important. Then we made sure everyone knew it. We even sent it to our customers and told them to tell us if we weren’t living up to our own mission statement.

What had been a disjointed group quickly became a focused team, able to complete several projects which had languished for quite some time.

When writing your mission, be honest. We are a capitalist society and we live in a free market world. Unless you run a non-profit organization, you have to make money or you’re out of business.

Remember, your mission is probably not to save the planet, though that can certainly be part of how you accomplish your mission and may even be part of your vision. But if you are in business to make money, say so. If you’re publicly held, your stockholders certainly expect you to make money.

A vision is the leader’s lofty and challenging view of what he or she wants to accomplish. The mission is a short, succinct statement that defines what the organization actually does. Together, they form the basis for a solid strategic plan.

Bob Mason is a speaker, trainer, facilitator and president of RLM Planning and Leadership, a consulting firm dedicated to helping businesses meld smart strategic planning with leadership excellence. To learn more visit http://www.planleadexcel.com and download the first chapter of his book, Planning to Excel, Strategic Planning that Works, due to be released this spring

Bob Mason - EzineArticles Expert Author

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