The one with the question on vision

So last week I was on the train into London and given the train ran from Tring to London (where I was headed) and I was feeling rather weary I rested my eyes for a few moments….to be woken about 20 minutes later by someone saying “I’ve literally caught you sleeping!”. Thankfully it was someone I know and it was good to catch up. During the course of the conversation the person in question, who runs a small but growing business, asked if I had any structures or exercises for developing company vision statements.

I have played with a few things but nothing that’s ever got my intellectual tuning fork ringing so when I got home some hours later I tweeted a question along the lines of “What’s the difference between mission & vision?”. After managing the responses who thought there was a punchline coming and that I was actually being serious, I got the following responses…..

Consultant @dougshaw1 posted this:

What’s the difference between mission statement and vision? the former is longer, and both are full of bullshit bingo?

Head of Comms @melbuck32 posted this:

Best answer I’ve found: Vision is what it’ll look like in the future. Mission is why it exists & how it achieves the vision

L&D Manager @floramarriot posted this:

am not a fan, but I think V is the big dream, what’s possible. M is what u do to make the dream happen

Engagement Specialist @thinkingfox posted this:

V is what the boss sees, M is what happens when marketing and HR are allowed to sanitise it

@theintrapreneur, Richard Baker posted this:

not much difference. a mission is wordy and should last. Vision is punchier ideally and fit within broader purpose/mission

Change Consultant @changeconinuum posted this:

The consultant’s fee

And followed it up with this:

what the future looks like (vision) versus what you are about (mission)

PR professional @LaraLakin posted this:

Mission is a company’s reason for being. Vision is the potential, given the status quo, that it could achieve


Wikipedia defines them as this:

A Mission statement tells you the fundamental purpose of the organization. It defines the customer and the critical processes. It informs you of the desired level of performance.

A Vision statement outlines what the organization wants to be, or how it wants the world in which it operates to be. It concentrates on the future. It is a source of inspiration. It provides clear decision-making criteria.

Having reviewed the responses and the wiki definition there seems to be some consensus that mission is about purpose and vision is about future but I’m still not sure if it’s really a McKinsey exercise that we’re all paying lip service to?

The original purpose of this blog was the share the answers but also try and further develop my understand, so if there’s anything anyone wants to add – feel free!

Meanwhile back to the plot, I shared some thoughts with the person I met on the train but also went sculling about to look at some vision statement from well known organisations, so Ladies & Gentlemen, line up as we play guess the vision:

  • Our Vision is to put joy in kids’ hearts and a smile on parents’ faces.
  • To enable people and businesses throughout the world to realize their full potential.
  • “#######’s mission is to help people save money so they can live bet
  • To make people happy.
  • “#######‘s mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.

(The only hint is they are all American!)




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2 responses to “The one with the question on vision

  1. I think I would agree – mission for purpose and vision for what the org wants to be.

    What’s more important for me is where they come from. In my mind, if you must have these, then they need to be collaboratively sourced, not just a line of garbage from the company PR machine/CEO.

    It has to be something that comes from all the people on the bus, not just the driver 😉

  2. Gareth makes a great point. If you need them then source them from within the (whole) organisation. My thinking is developing along the lines of do you need them?

    We see many organisations whose employees/customers either don’t recognise them or they become so facile they don’t distinguish the organisation. Your quiz above probably proves this last point!

    Perhaps Simon Sinek ( would have an interesting take on this. He uses Apple as an example in his TED talk :

    “Everything we do, we believe in challenging the status quo. We believe in thinking differently. The way we challenge the status quo is by making our products beautifully designed, simple to use and user friendly. We just happen to make great computers. Want to buy one?”

    In one straightforward paragraph, based on belief, you can inspire. You can talk to the DNA of an organisation and the aspirations of many.

    When does a mission/vision statement ever do this? When do the consultants ever get close?

    BTW it probably takes more leadership to develop a belief statement than a vision/mission. You have to mean it and live it!

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