Mission and vision statements are indeed different, and understating the difference is key to developing the most effective statements. A mission statement is basically what defines a company’s business, while a vision statement should be all about the future of the company. “Vision statement is the lodestar that you are following to plot your course. The mission statement is the workhorse that you ride to get you to the destination”, Professor Randall Iden, MSC Faculty Director, explains.
When writing a Mission statement, it is important to recognize what the mission statement should tell you about the company. the mission statement is action-oriented and should let us know 3 important things as describes by Professor Iden:
- Who we are.
- What our shared values are.
- what we are trying to accomplish.
For example, the mission statement of Northwestern University is: “Northwestern is committed to excellent teaching, innovative research and the personal and intellectual growth of its students in a diverse academic community.”
Mission statements are not only limited to the company as a whole but can also be different depending on each department that makes up the company. “Each department in an organization can have a submission statement that emanates from the larger mission statement. By doing this you ensure that the identity is reinforced, as it is very hard to keep the organization together and link everyone without a strong sense of identity”, Professor Iden emphasizes.
For example, the mission statement of the student affairs department at Northwestern University is:
“The mission of the Northwestern University Division of Student Affairs is to educate students, engage the community, and enrich the Northwestern experience.
We pursue our mission by providing learning programs, services, and mentoring to maximize students’ potential; removing barriers to learning; strengthening readiness to learn; and sustaining a safe and healthy Northwestern community.”
Where do companies go wrong in mission and vision statements?
Professor Iden explains that the most common mistake companies can make is using clichés. “Using clichés and boilerplate language, using language that sounds good to put up on a website but never intending to use it as a text that governs behavior and responsibility.”
Finally, we must not forget that an effective mission statement needs to involve everyone in the company, and that includes valuable stakeholders. Professor Iden stresses: “Those organizations that are dedicated to a larger purpose and aware of the interests of key stakeholders are much more likely to be successful and have fulfilled members than those that are unsure of how today’s task relates to something larger.”