Why You Need Mis­sion and Vi­sion State­ments

Trillions - - Contents - By Dr. Chance T. Ea­ton

With­out con­tin­ued aware­ness and in­ten­tion, all things break down in time. We see this break­down in all sys­tems. For ex­am­ple, if you don’t place aware­ness and in­ten­tion into your re­la­tion­ship with your spouse, you be­gin to ex­pe­ri­ence fric­tion in the re­la­tion­ship. If you don’t main­tain a healthy life­style of sleep, nu­tri­tion and ac­tiv­ity, your body is more sus­cep­ti­ble to ill­ness, fa­tigue and in­jury. In busi­ness, if you don’t main­tain up­keep on your ma­chin­ery and equip­ment, you in­crease the like­li­hood of un­ex­pected break­down – also known as de­pre­ci­a­tion.

In physics, the con­cept is called en­tropy. It is a mea­sure­ment of the dis­or­der of en­ergy of a col­lec­tion of par­ti­cles. Ba­si­cally, the uni­verse has a gen­eral trend to­ward dis­or­der.

When I work with dis­en­gaged work­groups, it is pretty ob­vi­ous to see that the team dy­nam­ics have bro­ken down. Much like the con­cept of en­tropy, the team dy­nam­ics have trended to­ward chaos and dis­or­der. This is ev­i­denced by lower lev­els of trust, con­fu­sion around work ex­pec­ta­tions, and poor-qual­ity prod­ucts/ ser­vices. If teams can’t in­vest ef­fort and in­ten­tion in who they are and what they do, they will trend to­ward dis­or­der.

My first ad­vice for such groups is to stop, take a breath and re­visit why they come to work each day. This comes in the form of the team writ­ing shared mis­sion and vi­sion state­ments. “Shared” means that ev­ery­one par­tic­i­pates in the process. It is com­mon that com­pa­nies may al­ready pos­sess a mis­sion and a vi­sion, but I sug­gest that each team or work­group also de­velop their own unique state­ments be­cause they are unique in what they do, how they do it, who they do it for and where they are headed. Qual­ity mis­sion and vi­sion state­ments re­mind us of why we get up and go to our job each day, they re­mind us of our sim­i­lar­i­ties as a team and they re­mind us of where we are go­ing – the as­pi­ra­tional and in­spir­ing di­rec­tion.

Mis­sion state­ment: the who, what, why and how

The mis­sion state­ment sum­ma­rizes and de­fines a core pur­pose. It an­swers the who, what, why and how. It should be clear, con­cise, au­then­tic and dis­tinc­tive and ap­ply to ev­ery­one in the work­group.

Vi­sion state­ment: the where and how

The vi­sion state­ment rep­re­sents the de­sired and op­ti­mal fu­ture state. It de­scribes what you aim to achieve, pro­vides guid­ance and is for­ward-think­ing and in­spi­ra­tional. It is meant to func­tion as the North Star, stretch­ing your ca­pa­bil­i­ties and cap­tur­ing am­bi­tious as­pi­ra­tions. Ef­fec­tive vi­sion state­ments guide and direct your mis­sion.


The fol­low­ing state­ments come from a food bank and are great rep­re­sen­ta­tions of how mis­sion and vi­sion state­ments should be writ­ten.

Mis­sion: Serv­ing our neigh­bors in need by pro­vid­ing food in a re­spect­ful and dig­ni­fied way and by work­ing with oth­ers to elim­i­nate hunger in the greater Our Town area.

Vi­sion: Cre­at­ing a hunger-free com­mu­nity.

As you read these state­ments, you will no­tice that the mis­sion state­ment an­swers who the food bank serves (Our Town area), what they do (serve neigh­bors by pro­vid­ing food), why they do what they do (to elim­i­nate hunger) and how they serve (in a re­spect­ful and dig­ni­fied way). When I read this, I have no doubt about the food bank’s core pur­pose, and the mis­sion state­ment an­swers for me why their em­ploy­ees get out of bed and come in to do this im­por­tant work.

Their vi­sion state­ment goes right to the heart as it sets out the vi­sion of a hunger-free com­mu­nity. Not only does it au­da­ciously set the North Star; it also gets to the wow fac­tor with its in­spi­ra­tional and achiev­able goal.

Com­mon prob­lems with mis­sion and vi­sion state­ments

The fol­low­ing are com­mon prob­lems I see in mis­sion and vi­sion state­ments:

1. They are writ­ten off-site by an ex­ec­u­tive team and ex­clude team in­put. When team mem­bers do not par­tic­i­pate in the process, it is less likely that it will be em­braced by the in­di­vid­ual mem­bers. It is all too com­mon for ex­ec­u­tive teams to go off on a re­treat, hash out some state­ments and re­turn with lam­i­nated cards and posters. Com­mit­ment will never take un­less em­ploy­ees have a say in the team’s core pur­pose and as­pi­ra­tional di­rec­tion.

2. You can’t dis­tin­guish be­tween the mis­sion and the vi­sion. One test I per­form is to iso­late each state­ment and read it in­de­pen­dently. If I read both sim­i­larly and can’t dif­fer­en­ti­ate be­tween them, the au­thors have mis­un­der­stood what mis­sion and vi­sion state­ments are, leav­ing the team with vague de­scrip­tions. I’ve even seen sit­u­a­tions where the mis­sion and vi­sion state­ments were writ­ten back­wards, con­fus­ing em­ploy­ees.

3. They are too as­pi­ra­tional. I will com­monly see lan­guage like “#1 in the world,” “a world with­out…” and “the best.” These are vague and of­ten un­re­al­is­tic. If your team can’t res­onate with their re­al­ity, they won’t get be­hind it.

4. They aren’t lived. Once the mis­sion and vi­sion are ar­tic­u­lated, they need to be­come part of the busi­ness cul­ture. I of­ten see the state­ments placed on walls and lam­i­nated cards but rarely, if ever, hear them talked about. The whole pur­pose of mis­sion and vi­sion state­ments is to bring lan­guage to our core pur­pose and as­pi­ra­tional di­rec­tion; you must use the state­ments to breathe life into the or­ga­ni­za­tion.

5. They are too long. When I see state­ments that take up mul­ti­ple pages, I know it will be hard for em­ploy­ees to res­onate with the mes­sage. The state­ments need to be short and to the point.

Just like nat­u­ral sys­tems, work­groups and com­pa­nies will break down over time if they aren’t nour­ished with pur­pose and di­rec­tion. Cre­at­ing mis­sion and vi­sion state­ments is a low-cost, high-re­turn ac­tiv­ity that can pro­vide the in­gre­di­ents to com­bat the gen­eral trend for all things to move to­ward dis­or­der.

Dr. Chance Ea­ton has over a decade’s worth of ex­pe­ri­ence work­ing in the field of learn­ing and or­ga­ni­za­tional devel­op­ment. Due to his unique ed­u­ca­tional and work ex­pe­ri­ences in fi­nance, psy­chol­ogy, lead­er­ship and man­age­ment, ed­u­ca­tion, noetic sci­ences and agri­cul­ture, Dr. Ea­ton pro­vides his clients with rel­e­vant busi­ness so­lu­tions grounded in the­ory and re­search. To learn more about Dr. Ea­ton’s ser­vices, visit www.hc­sin­ter.com.

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