Vision MIssion Values IMage

Knowing the Difference Between a Company’s Vision, Mission and Values

January 5, 2016

by Mark David

Here’s the “what, why and how” of great company culture.

The guiding stars for any great enterprise are its Vision, Mission and Core Values. Here’s how I distinguish between them:

Vision is the “What?”

Your Vision statement answers the question, “What significant difference does our company intend to make in the world? In what way will the world be changed for the better by our completing our Mission?

Think of your Vision statement as a succinct and powerful intention. A good Vision statement is short and memorable—often just a few words or a single sentence—but it stretches the imagination.

Example: At a time when there were virtually no personal computers in the world, Steve Jobs articulated his compelling vision of the future in nine words: “A computer on every desk and in every home.”

At its best, a company Vision is a compelling picture of a new reality—a desired future state. It’s something exciting that is currently out of reach, and it should inspire and motivate your people to close the gap.

Mission is the “Why?”

A company’s Mission statement answers the practical question, “Why do we exist as a business?” It describes your special role or specific niche in the market place.

I know that some companies think of their Vision and Mission as one and the same, but I like to distinguish them this way:

At its best, a company Mission statement is typically more left-brained and “business-like” than the Vision statement. Think of your Mission statement as “feet on the ground” and your Vision statement as “eyes on the stars.”

In a way, your Mission Statement is a miniature 2-5 sentence business plan—something practical and portable that will quickly and clearly describe your business, not only to your clients and your people, but to the bank.

Another way to look at it: If you execute your Mission, you will eventually achieve your Vision.

Example: Here is a nice, compact Mission Statement crafted by Sun Microsystems: “Our Mission is to assist and empower our clients to succeed in their enterprise or marketplace. We do this by creating world-class products and solutions that enable our clients to migrate easily—and navigate freely—in the new world of open integrated computing.”

Values are the “How?”

A company’s Core Values answer the question, “How do we intend to treat each other and our customers on the way to achieving our Vision and Mission?”

Values are personal choices you make about the qualities that are most important to you, your people and your brand. And, like a compass, they should guide your every action and decision.

I have found that it’s a good idea to shoot for 4-6 Core Values. Yes, you will have other Values beyond those, but these 4-6 should comprise your uppermost values and priorities. Here, for example, are the five Core Values that describe and guide the corporate culture and marketing of Montana’s Moonlight Basin ski resort: Montana-style Hospitality. Honesty. Openness. Family. Community Enrichment.

Taken together, your Core Values should describe your special “style” and “ethos” of doing business. They should resonate in your advertising, your brand, your company communications and culture.


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