What is the difference between a vision, mission and strategy? Collectively, the vision, mission and strategy align people around a clear ambition, purpose and approach – they paint the picture of a better future, and how the organisation will achieve it. They are also terms that get used widely and interchangeably, and as a result, can cause confusion. Let’s explore the important differences between them.
The Vision provides the inspiration. It is idealistic, describing the long-term future state that you want to get to. The vision doesn’t include how you’re going to get there – it’s an aspirational statement that motivates and inspires employees, and helps shape decision-making.
Effective vision statements are:
- Clear and concise
- Ambitious and challenging
Vision statement examples
- “A computer on every desk in every home.” – Microsoft (c.1980)
- “A world without Alzheimer’s disease.” – Alzheimer’s Association
- “Exploring the secrets of the universe for the benefit of all.” – NASA
- “To create a better everyday life for the many people.” – IKEA
Where the vision focuses on the future, the mission focuses on the organisation. It describes your core purpose, including who your customers are, how you will serve them, and the values you hold. The mission is a clear statement of intent, giving direction to your employees and customers about the work you do.
Effective mission statements include:
- Your product or service
- Your customers
- What makes you different
- The values you hold
Mission statement examples
- “Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.” – Patagonia
- “Our mission is to eliminate Alzheimer’s disease through the advancement of research; to provide and enhance care and support for all affected; and to reduce the risk of dementia through the promotion of brain health.” – Alzheimer’s Association
- “NASA explores the unknown in air and space, innovates for the benefit of humanity, and inspires the world through discovery.” – NASA
- “Offer 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.” – IKEA
Strategy gets down to the detail. It builds on the vision and mission by setting out how your organisation will achieve them. It’s the approach. The strategy covers a lot of detail, including the products or services your organisation plans to offer, the different types of markets and customers you want to sell to, and how the organisation needs to be resourced and financed to meet its goals.
Effective strategies include:
- The vision and mission
- Customers and markets
- The problems to solve / opportunities to exploit
- A roadmap for product and services
- Strengths and weaknesses, opportunities and threats
- Clear metrics to measure progress
In a nutshell, those are the key differences between a vision, mission and strategy. What matters most about them is their effect on the people in your organisation.
- Do you have an aspirational goal that excites them?
- Do they understand what needs to be done to move towards it?
- Do they know how they are going to do it?
You’re on the right track if it’s a yes to all three.