Most firms publish their mission and a vision statements.

A mission statement defines an organisation’s purpose and primary objectives, stating ‘who we are and what we do’. Mission statements are targeted at internal and external stakeholders. By publishing the firm’s mission statement it is believed that everybody will know what their business is and relate to its purpose. As a result, employees should be motivated and fired up to achieve. This only works, however, if everybody understands and relates to the mission. The mission statement acts as a guiding philosophy for the firm, to help give a clear statement of direction for the present, and so needs to have immediate relevance. Of course, it helps if the mission corresponds to the outlook and purpose of the individuals who make up the organisation, and if they have contributed to the development of that mission. If the mission is perceived as a glib slogan, designed by the marketing team, it will have little value.

The mission statement is not specific and does not usually have quantifiable targets, or measures, rather it is aimed at helping customers, employees and all other stakeholders to understand the direction and objectives of the firm.

“A business is not defined by its name, statutes or articles of incorporation. It is defined by the business mission. Only a clear definition of the missions and purpose of the organisation makes possible clear and realistic business objectives.”                                                                           Peter Drucker

Coca-Cola’s 2020 vision for the business provides a roadmap for its future strategic development and incorporates both its mission and vision statement and is an excellent example of integrating these statements into a practical plan for action:

‘To continue to thrive as a business over the next ten years and beyond, Coca-Cola say it must look ahead, understand the trends and forces that will shape their business in the future and move swiftly to prepare for what’s to come:

We must get ready for tomorrow today. That’s what our 2020 Vision is all about. It creates a long-term destination for our business and provides us with a “Roadmap” for winning together with our bottling partners.’

Our Roadmap starts with our mission, which is enduring. It declares our purpose as a company and serves as the standard against which we weigh our actions and decisions.

  • To refresh the world…
  • To inspire moments of optimism and happiness…

To create value and make a difference.

While a mission statement is of immediate relevance to all stakeholders as it is about the present and the way in which a company wants to advance, a vision statement is a more general statement looking at where the business desires to be in the future and the values that it will take with it along the way. A vision statement is less quantifiable than a mission statement as it is a statement about what the organisation wants to become and what it wants to achieve. The vision statement should make employees feel proud, motivated, and excited to part of something much larger than them. It should stretch the organisation’s capabilities and give shape and direction to its future.

Vision statements encompass the essence of a company. They explain what the company wants to be. Take Amazon and Apple, for example. Their vision statements identify their purpose and underpin their long-term objectives.

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.”

Apple (from an interview with CEO Tim Cook): “We believe that we are on the face of the earth to make great products and that’s not changing. We are constantly focusing on innovating. We believe in the simple not the complex. We believe that we need to own and control the primary technologies behind the products that we make, and participate only in markets where we can make a significant contribution. We believe in saying no to thousands of projects, so that we can really focus on the few that are truly important and meaningful to us. We believe in deep collaboration and cross-pollination of our groups, which allow us to innovate in a way that others cannot. And frankly, we don’t settle for anything less than excellence in every group in the company, and we have the self-honesty to admit when we’re wrong and the courage to change. And I think regardless of who is in what job those values are so embedded in this company that Applewill do extremely well.”

Apple’s vision statement describes the company’s values; it’s Apple’s DNA. It provides the ‘why’ of the business. It isn’t about why customers should buy Apple products – its about why customers should choose Apple as a business, whatever the product is. The following excellent TED by Simon Sinek explores how firms can inspire cooperation, trust and change. His speech focuses on the successes of Apple’s Unique Selling Proposition –  ‘Why Apple’?

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