Mission, Vision, and Values Statements
A strategic plan is incomplete and doomed for failure if it isn’t guided by three essential components: mission, vision, and values. In the absence of a well-crafted strategic plan, work occurs aimlessly, and stakeholders remain uninformed and unchallenged. As a result, you may not be able to make the most of your capital and human resources, unable to set the right direction for your company, and struggle to meet your long-term goals.
Your strategic planning process is invisible to others and private only to you. But your mission, vision, and values are on your website, in your marketing materials, and in investor and shareholder reports. They communicate your strengths, ambition, and values.
Here’s a look at the three key components that go into creating an effective strategic plan.
The Mission Statement
A mission statement is a succinct statement conveying the reason for the company’s existence. It communicates what the company does, how, and why.
The statement informs and reminds employees about the company’s purpose, aligning their work to it or pursuing creative or innovative ways of achieving the purpose.
What does a mission statement include?
A mission statement summarizes the company’s overarching goals, values, culture, and agenda. The statement reflects how these constituents apply to the company’s stakeholders so they can align their goals with that of the company. It also extends to prospective investors. For example, an investor with a strong moral code of ethics will avoid investing in companies that have been repeatedly fined for violating labor or environmental laws.
Unilever: Unilever’s mission is to add vitality to life. We meet everyday needs for nutrition, hygiene, and personal care with brands that help people feel good, look good and get more out of life.
3M: To Improve Every Life through Innovative Giving in Education, Community, and the Environment.
Nordstrom: To give customers the most compelling shopping experience possible.
Typical mission statement formats
A mission statement can take the form of a slogan, a short paragraph, or a bullet point of statements.
Paragraph: Johnson & Johnson
Our mission is to make diversity & inclusion our way of doing business. We will advance our culture of belonging where open hearts and minds combine to unleash the potential of the brilliant mix of people, in every corner of Johnson & Johnson.
Coca-Cola has a mission to:
- To refresh the world…
- To inspire moments of optimism and happiness…
- To create value and make a difference.
How to write a mission statement
1. Outline the product or service your company provides
State what your company does in simple terms. It’s fine to use words that may not be known to everyone but familiar to your target audience.
Workday, an American financial and human capital management software vendor, states that its mission is ‘to put people at the center of enterprise software.’ Workday’s customers are large organizations looking to ease their workforce and financial planning challenges. They could be using different kinds of enterprise software in the day-to-day running of their organization. The company’s mission statement suggests that they have designed their technology solutions to be people-centric.
2. Briefly describe how you provide the product or service
In this part of the mission, you can market what you do best or any unique advantage you have – anything that makes you stand apart from the competition. Are you able to deliver exceptional customer service? Do you offer a revolutionary price? Do you provide a service sustainably, to a high standard of excellence, or to specific people or communities?
Most companies believe they provide ‘the best service’; the takeaway is that they deliver a high level of service, perhaps higher than others. Therefore, although it is a common inclusion in mission statements, you should still include it if your customers want and expect superior customer service.
You also have the opportunity to insert your capabilities in the statement. For example, suppose you have strong in-house R&D or a robust technological infrastructure, your capacity to innovate increases. So, you could say that your mission is ‘to provide innovative solutions by maintaining a high level of R&D and engineering excellence.’
3. Wrap up with an explanation of why you deliver the product/service
Is it to drive the growth and productivity of your clients? To alleviate human suffering during emergencies? To help people unlock their potential? This bit of the mission statement should be inspirational and not inwardly focused. Once upon a time, maximizing shareholder value was the ultimate corporate goal. However, companies today are taking a broad view of corporate purpose and aspire to serve all stakeholders with the belief that it leads to long-term value creation.
Incumbents that previously emphasized shareholder returns have modified their mission statement to incorporate modernized principles that focus on commitment to the community and shared prosperity.
Here’s how you can frame your mission to show commitment to delivering value to all stakeholders:
Our mission is to maximize shareholder value by managing our business socially responsible with special care towards the communities we serve.
Some questions to answer to draft your mission statement efficiently :
- What is the purpose of our company?
- Where are our offices located?
- Who are our customers/ clients, and what are their needs? Microsoft’s corporate mission emphasizes that they seek to ’empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.’
- How do we work?
- Why is what we do important?
Length of the mission statement
There’s no hard and fast rule on the length of your mission statement. But, as much as possible, try to be concise and use simple words that make grasping the company’s purpose quick and easy.
Dos and don’ts of creating a mission statement
Use concrete language: Be precise and provide a clear understanding of your company. For example, Tesla’s mission statement, ‘to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy,’ make no bones about the company’s purpose to facilitate a shift to renewable energy. It is among the leaders in this respect, giving consumers a choice to decarbonize by driving electric vehicles.
Be authentic: Avoid inclusions that aren’t true in relation to what you do or deliver. For example, if you aren’t sustainability-focused as yet or to the levels of your competitors, buzzwords such as ‘green’ or ‘environmentally responsible’ are unlikely to ring true.
Highlight the advantages of your company, and don’t be afraid of hyperbole. For example, if you use only the freshest produce for your restaurant’s dishes, emphasize this benefit to consumers. The bottom line is, don’t downplay your strengths or embellish your perceived weak points.
Review and refine: Your mission statement goes on your website and marketing material. Investors, customers, and suppliers gain an impression of you based on your mission, vision, and values. Therefore, it is worth spending the time and effort needed to polish your mission statement, reviewing word choice, coherence, authenticity, tone, and distinctiveness.
A mission statement is not cast in stone. It can be updated if your company pursues a new purpose or changes focus. After all, the point of a mission is to clarify what you do.
- Be vague
- Be too boastful
- Be untruthful
- Use long-winding sentences
Mission versus purpose
Some companies communicate a purpose rather than a mission. A purpose emphasizes the reasons why a company exists. If your mission already includes it, you don’t need to create a separate statement of purpose.
The BBC has both: their mission is “to act in the public interest, serving all audiences through the provision of impartial, high-quality and distinctive output and services which inform, educate and entertain.” Their charter establishes five purposes, covering impartial news, supporting learning for people of all ages, delivering high-quality services, serving diverse communities, and reflecting the cultures of the UK to the world.
Life insurer Aegon, on the other hand, has a purpose in place of a mission, which includes the value they uphold:
Our purpose is to help people achieve a lifetime of financial security. We provide them with the tools and confidence to make the right financial choices. And by acting in a responsible and transparent manner, we’ll ensure that their investment is safe until the day they need it.
The Vision Statement
A vision statement conveys the future state the company seeks to accomplish. While the mission statement defines who you are, what you do, and why you exist (actionable), a vision statement describes what your efforts hope to achieve in the long run (aspirational).
A strong vision statement indicates that leaders have a clear idea about their company’s direction, which is more important than ever before. In the face of changing market demands and technological advancements, companies are being challenged to adapt and grow. A clear and compelling vision leads to a successful change strategy. In addition, leaders have realized that defining and redefining the organizational vision is necessary to rally employees around the change strategy and move the organization forward.
Amazon: Our vision is to be earth’s most customer-centric company, to build a place where people can come to find and discover anything they might want to buy online.
Creative Commons: Realizing the full potential of the internet — universal access to research and education, full participation in culture — to drive a new era of development, growth, and productivity.
European Union: Our vision is a European Union where people in all our regions and cities can realize their full potential. We aim for lasting improvement in the economy and quality of life for everybody, wherever they live.
How to write a vision statement
Use the information you’ve used to create your mission statement and corporate goals to inform your vision. Consider these questions as a guide to crystallizing your company vision:
- What are our most ambitious long-term goals and the change we will have effected once we’ve accomplished those goals?
- What is the desired impact we wish to deliver for the people we serve or the world in general? How does the impact add up and make a difference in the future?
- How will our ongoing engagements with customers/clients ultimately look like?
- What kind of corporate culture do we aspire to foster, and how will it affect employees’ lives?
There is no golden rule when it comes to the length of a vision statement. However, it should be long enough to completely and clearly define your vision but not so long as to be difficult to recall.
Don’t worry about sounding lofty. The whole point of having an organizational vision is to think big and have an optimistic view of business success and impact. By restraining yourself to generic goals that everyone will agree are achievable, you risk sounding diffident, unambitious, and unexciting.
Tips for creating an effective vision statement
- Write a longer vision statement and pare it down to a sentence, two or more. Remove superfluous information and words to ensure compactness and convey key points that stakeholders should know, nothing more, nothing less.
IKEA’s vision has just enough verbiage that makes its purpose and strengths clear:
“Our vision is to create a better everyday life for the many people – for customers, but also for our co-workers and the people who work at our suppliers. We make this possible by offering a wide range of well-designed, functional home furnishing products at prices so low that as many people as possible will be able to afford them.”
- Use simple, jargon-free language. You don’t need buzzwords to get your point across. Your stakeholders should be able to grasp its meaning without having to think too hard!
For example, read the simple jargon-free vision statement from Tesla:
“To create the most compelling car company of the 21st century by driving the world’s transition to electric vehicles”.
- Provide a balanced view of your duty to stakeholders. For example, Coca-Cola’s vision statement exemplifies how they care about all the owners of their business:
“Our vision is to craft the brands and choice of drinks that people love, to refresh them in body & spirit. And done in ways that create a more sustainable business and better shared future that makes a difference in people’s lives, communities and our planet”.
The Values Statement
A values statement lists the principles that guide the behavior of the people in your organization. They’re the underlying philosophies that drive your work and actions. Values provide the foundation for the organization’s culture. Therefore, they should be actionable, meaningful, and timeless.
Examples of core values are honesty, integrity, accountability, openness, collaboration, ingenuity, simplicity, respect, customer experience, and passion.
A values statement isn’t one but a set of declarations about your shared beliefs. Some companies express their values in 3-4 words, while others may provide longer sentences.
Airbus has dedicated a full page to communicate its values. A few words from the page:
We are guided by a set of six values, each chosen by the very people who embody them. Customer focus, integrity, respect, creativity, reliability, and teamwork. These values shape the DNA of our business, reflecting the unique blend of qualities found in every member of our global family.
- Focus on Impact
- Move Fast
- Be Open
- Build Social Value
When drafting your values statement, answer the following questions:
- What values are unique to our company? Prioritize values that you expect your company and people to uphold, and reflect in your policies, procedures, public engagements, and grievance redressal mechanisms.
- Which of the values guide our actions and behaviors? Shared beliefs and values impact an organization’s operations, determining how quickly or successfully the organization can realize its strategic goals.
- What ethical principles are our employees expected to follow? A code of ethics puts the organization’s values into practice. Frame your company’s code of ethics based on the common ethical issues in your industry. Also, establish a mechanism to address a violation of values.
Your company’s mission, vision, and values underpin your strategy. After a clear idea of where you are, where you want to be, and how your company’s culture supports your long-term vision, you’re ready to shape your strategic objectives and focus areas.
If you want to learn more about writing a strategic plan, you can go through our blog post on ‘How To Write a Strategic Plan.’