Company visions and missions—what's the difference?

Company vision and mission statements often get people in a kerfuffle

First published on Thursday, Jun 04, 2020

Last updated on Friday, Jun 14, 2024

Are they the same thing? Aren’t they all just woolly statements that don’t mean anything?

The answer, in both cases, is no. Vision and mission statements aren’t the same, and they can both be really useful to your organisation. You simply need to understand them and get yours right.

The difference between mission and vision

Mission and vision statements are similar in that they both tell employees, stakeholders and customers about your business in a nutshell.

Your mission should concisely state the reason your organisation exists today. It’s usually a short paragraph that answers questions such as:

  • What does your organisation do?
  • Why do you do it?
  • Who do you do it for? (E.g. customers, owners, other stakeholders)
  • What makes you different?

Your vision, on the other hand, should state what your organisation plans to achieve in future. It can be a longer text that might answer:

  • What are your goals?
  • What will the world be like when you achieve your goals?
  • What will your organisation be like when you achieve your goals?

The key difference is this: a mission statement talks about your company as it is now, while a vision statement envisions how your company will change the world.

Writing a mission statement

For your mission statement to be useful, rather than bland or fuzzy, it must capture the essence of your organisation. A good place to start is by asking the fundamental questions in the section above.

For example, Amazon may have answered these questions as follows before writing their mission statement:

  • What does your organisation do? — Sell a huge range of products online
  • Who do you do it for? — The whole world
  • What makes you different? — Being extremely customer-centric

The resulting mission statement reads: “It’s our goal to be Earth’s most customer-centric company, where customers can find and discover anything they might want to buy online”.

Note that Amazon’s mission doesn’t talk about why they exist. It’s your choice to include or exclude specific elements.

Writing a vision statement

The same goes for your vision statement. Start by compiling the information you want to tell people about your vision, by asking fundamental questions about where you’re headed.

A vision statement can be anything from a single sentence to a page long, and might be used to inspire employees, partners, and customers about your plans for the future.

Here are two example vision statements from major organisations:

  • “A just world without poverty” (Oxfam)
  • “The IKEA vision is to create a better everyday life for the many people. We make this possible by offering a wide range of well-designed, functional home furnishing products at process so low that as many people as possible will be able to afford them.” (IKEA)

Using your mission and vision statements

Provided they’re effective and up to date, your vision and mission statements can play a key role in:

  • Guiding the strategy of your organisation
  • Communicating key company information to new employees, customers and partners
  • Inspiring people to ‘buy in’ to your vision and mission
  • Inspiring people to want to work with you

So forget the negativity that sometimes surrounds this often-misunderstood topic, and start inspiring people with your mission and vision.

Alan Price

CEO, BrightHR and Group Chief Operating Officer

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