A lot of buzzwords get thrown around in business today. Some of them are productive, some of them are trendy, and some are confusing. What can be especially confusing is when multiple words are used to convey related but separate themes. Employees and managers alike are often confused by the difference between their company’s vision, mission, and strategy. While striving for consistency across each area, it’s easy for these ideas to overlap significantly. Let’s take a look at each of the three: what they are, what are the key differences, and how they all fit together.
What is a Company Vision?
A company vision seeks to outline where the company is headed and what values are guiding that journey. It tells us the company’s purpose by focusing on the future and what the organization exists to achieve.
The vision statement should not need revising often; it is the foundation of the company and is based on the company’s core beliefs. These core beliefs or values are those that remain constant—regardless of business climate, profit level, or sales cycle.
Many organizations choose to specifically outline or list their core values as part of their vision statement. When taking this route, remember the list should be short—typically no more than about 5 items. These values should not be dependent on current profits, current trends, or current economic circumstances. They’re more constant than that and represent the deep-seated core values that remain at the heart of the organization.
Because it tells the organizational purpose and values, the vision statement often influences the company culture and expectations, thereby giving direction for employees. It should be very short and easy to communicate.
What is a Company Mission?
Like the vision, the mission also tells everyone the organization’s purpose—what does the organization exist to do? What are the objectives? It goes beyond the vision, however, by making a clearer delineation of company goals and how the vision will be accomplished.
In other words, the mission statement is a way to express the vision in practical terms. It should be concrete and include goal-oriented language. It should include measurable objectives. Every person within the organization can evaluate whether his or her own activities will serve to help the company achieve its mission.
A mission statement is usually disseminated internally. It is used by employees, stockholders, and by leaders throughout the organization. Like the mission, it should also be short. It could even be a single sentence in some cases.
While the company vision is future-focused, the mission combines forward thinking with present goals. It may be modified over time, but it should always stay true to the company vision and values.
What is a Company Strategy?
Some organizations put additional steps between forming the vision/mission and creating the strategy. For example, many choose to create an overall list of objectives or goals first, and then to use those as the basis for their company strategy.
A company strategy should include short- and long-term goals and should explain how those goals will be achieved. It is focused on present actions and outcomes needed to move closer to achieving the mission. Company strategies evolve and are updated over time to adjust for current factors such as local economic conditions and company needs.
Does your organization have a well-crafted and easy-to-communicate vision? Does it guide employee behavior? Does your mission reflect your core values? Is it easy to link the company strategy back to the vision and mission?
About Bridget Miller:
Bridget Miller is a business consultant with a specialized MBA in International Economics and Management, which provides a unique perspective on business challenges. She’s been working in the corporate world for over 15 years, with experience across multiple diverse departments including HR, sales, marketing, IT, commercial development, and training.