In the previous newsletter, we’ve covered naming. Today, we’ll talk about purpose and discuss two distinct verbal identity elements: vision and mission.
Vision and mission often get mixed up and confused in boardrooms worldwide. Yet, they serve different goals. Some companies choose to have both, others just pick one.
We’ll explore why changing or saving the world is not a good vision, and how you can use both vision and mission to make your goals clear for everyone and inform the rest of your verbal identity.
So what should your vision be? And how is it different from your mission?
Let’s find out,
Sent from Montreal, Canada.
When you come across a typical corporate vision or mission statement, chances are, it’s vague and generic.
Everyone pledges to do good, at scale.
In reality, both vision and mission are forgotten about 30 minutes after being published on the website. They never inform any decisions and are not referred to in any way ever after.
So what’s the point?
A good vision and mission are intangible. You don’t see them, but you feel their presence in everything a company does. It’s the why behind the actions.
It’s why some companies are great to work for and make you feel a sense of purpose and belonging to something greater than a regular job.
While vision and mission are defined at the macro level, they trickle down to every process in the company.
A vision is an inspirational statement set in the world you’d love to see and live in, as it relates to your organization.
For a vision to have maximum impact, it should be written in infinite terms. It’ll never be fully achieved, providing a constant horizon to work toward, but it also won’t change.
Note: A vision is not a detailed roadmap, quarterly strategy or product/service description.
Here’s an example of a vision from Zoom: Video communications empowering people to accomplish more.
A mission statement describes the company’s raison d’être and tells its target audience what it needs to do to get closer to its vision.
More than anything, a good mission statement establishes a clear priority — something that needs to be done or upheld at all costs, as it’s the fundamental reason for the organization’s existence.
Unlike a vision, a mission could be finite and revised every few years to ensure that it remains on the optimal path to the company’s vision.
Note: A mission should not be ambiguous. Any stakeholder reading a mission statement should be able to imagine how they can help the organization move in the right direction.
Here’s an example of a mission from Zoom: Make video communications frictionless and secure.
Compare Zoom’s vision and mission side by side to see how the former defines the world the company exists in and the latter specifies its goal.
The most common mistake people make when creating a new vision or mission is being too aspirational and ambiguous at the same time.
The worst vision you can write is, you guessed it, “to make the world a better place.”
Why? Because it’s too broad. Obviously, everyone wants to contribute to the greater good in the world, but which part is getting improved by your work and how?
Similarly, the worst mission is “to provide the best customer experience at a great price.”
Yes, everyone wants that too. But does it give a clear direction for new employees or even the current leadership? How does it get you closer to your vision?
Every company should have a distinct vision. When brainstorming yours, keep these points in mind:
After you define your vision, use it as a guide for your mission:
Following each point above will make your vision and mission statements strong and unique.
Even though your vision and mission are unique to you, looking at examples from other companies could help you get into the right mindset and make it easier to get started.
So here are a few vision and mission statements from the companies we use everyday in no particular order.
Organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.
Comment: Even the first part of Google’s mission strikes me as being particularly strong and somehow doesn’t seem like an exaggeration at all.
Make work life simpler, more pleasant and more productive.
Comment: Notably, Slack doesn’t mention the means they use for their mission. Using “more” as a qualifier generally weakens the message, but I assume their heuristic is “are we making work life simple, pleasant and productive?”
Let people communicate anywhere in the world without barriers.
Comment: This is a good statement for WhatsApp, and the key word here is “barriers” because it’s directional. The work for WhatsApp today is in identifying barriers and removing them.
Money without borders — instant, convenient, transparent and eventually free. We’re powering money for people and businesses: to pay, to get paid, to spend, in any currency, wherever you are, whatever you’re doing.
Comment: Wise’s mission is similar to WhatsApp’s but realigned for international payments.
To get 400 people their jobs back.
Comment: David Hieatt who runs Hiut Denim has a knack for compelling storytelling. The town of Cardigan in Wales has 4,000 people, 400 of whom used to make jeans. Then the factory was closed and the jobs were outsourced. But the know-how remained. So Mr. Hieatt is on his way to build a better jean company and get 400 people their jobs back. And who wouldn’t want to support him?
How to craft your vision and mission? Let’s walk through the process on the example of No Country Studio.
What is No Country Studio? It’s a copywriting studio. We work with companies to help them make their communication more human.
That’s a good place to start.
Vision: Communication with the human touch.
How do we plan to move toward that vision?
Mission: Bring clarity and creativity to corporate writing.
Clarity and creativity are what business speak and mass-produced content lack most of the time. If a large part of our days is spent reading corporate communication, let’s at least make it more informative and fun.
You can see that most mission statements above have qualifiers by which the direction of the work can be judged.
At No Country Studio, I can ask myself, “Are we adding clarity and creativity to this project or simply maintaining the status quo?”
In the end, while your vision and mission are meant to inspire you and your team, they don’t have to impress anyone else. So pick something that feels honest and real, and helps create the momentum you need to get on with your work.
In the next the gist of issue, we’ll uncover brand personas.