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Understanding the Difference between a Vision and Mission Statement & How to Write One

Updated on November 3, 2011
What's the difference between a vision and mission statement?
What's the difference between a vision and mission statement?
Writing a Vision/Mission Statement in 5 Easy Steps
Writing a Vision/Mission Statement in 5 Easy Steps

5 Simple Steps for Writing Vision & Mission Statements

Organizations, from small to large, create vision and/or mission statements to convey what the organization aspires to be, why it exists, who it serves, and what it hopes to achieve in the future.

Some organizations distinguish between their vision and mission, while others blend the two into one statement. Vision and mission statements vary in length, anywhere from a slogan to an executive summary.

Characteristics of both a vision and mission statement include:

  • Focusing on the big picture
  • Realistic to be both practical and workable
  • Motivating to inspire commitment from employees, stakeholders, and customers
  • Short and concise- short enough to be easily remember and concise enough to convey a clear message

The Difference between Vision & Mission

The first step to developing an organizations vision and mission is to understand the difference:

Vision - The Future

Definition: The way in which one sees or conceives something; a mental image; An overall statement of the goal of the organization.

MissionThe Present

Definition: An assignment one is sent to carry out; a self-imposed duty. A mission statement identifies the reason for the existence of the organization. The statement should be linked to the overall operations and business of the organization.

Creating a Vision & Mission Statement is Like Planning a Trip

“If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up somewhere else.”

The next step for developing a vision and mission is to look at the process from a different perspective:

Vision = the Destination

Mission = the Vehicle

Strategy = the Road Map

Knowing the destination of your organization tells you the type of vehicle you need to reach that destination. If your goal is to lie in a hammock on a small tropical island in the middle of the Pacific, then you know a car won’t get you there. So if your organization is a “car,” will that vehicle get you to your destination? If not, you need to re-engineer your vehicle (mission) to reach your destination (vision).

Vision (Destination)

What’s the destination of the organization? Visualize what the organization would look like in 5 and 10 years. Describe the detail: who are your customers, what do your products or services look like, who is your market, what is your revenue, how many employees do you have, etc. Remember this is the future.

Mission (Vehicle)

What is the focus of your organization? How are you structured to achieve your organization’s goal or objectives? What are your organization’s values and core competencies? Remember this is your present operation, you may identify changes needed to your vehicle in order to reach your destination.

Strategy (Road Map)

When you know your destination (vision) and the vehicle (mission) you are using to reach your destination, then you need a road map (strategy) to get you to your destination. Will your organization focus on a core product or service (the direct route) or will your organization provide multiple products or services (the scenic route)?

Writing the Statements

  1. Begin with the destination (vision) by brainstorming the answers to the questions listed under vision. For a new business this would involve the principals of the organization, while in an existing business this would include representatives from all areas of the organization plus feedback from key stakeholders and customers.
  2. Write a first draft. Continue to edit until the vision can be stated in one concise sentence.
  3. Get feedback. Make final edits. You’ll know you have a finished product when all involved say, “That’s says it all!”
  4. Now, for your mission statement, brainstorm the answers to the questions listed under mission above. Remember this is how your organization is presently operating and you may need to address “upgrades” to ensure your organization will reach its destination.
  5. Repeat steps 2 and 3 to complete your mission statement.

McDonalds Example:

Vision: “To be the world’s best quick service restaurant experience.” (The destination or the future)

Mission: “Being the best means providing outstanding quality, service, cleanliness, and value, so that we make every customer in every restaurant smile.” (The vehicle to reach the destination or the present operation)

Once you know your vision and mission, then you will be able to select the appropriate road map or strategy to ensure your organization reaches the destination.


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    • learnlovelive profile image

      learnlovelive 5 years ago from U.S.

      Dude. This is beautiful. LOVE the McDonalds reference; but we really need to implement this strategy in the business of individuals.

    • festersporling1 profile image

      Daniel Christian 6 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

      Very well written and makes a lot of sense Jay. Thanks.