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Mission, Vision, Values and Strategy - how to untangle them

Published by The Risk Dice in the blog The Risk Dice's blog. Views: 556

Mission, Vision, Values and Strategy.

These are often used by managers to identify what the company does, but do they get mixed up, all becoming a bit of a muddle. Without a well-defined mission and vision, acted within a clear set of values how can employees know what is expected of them, and what they are working towards.

This is the reason for the organisation to exist, why is it there. Although making a profit is required, this is often the by-product of a clear mission and vision. With the organisation understanding what it is aiming for, this should act as the guiding light for the organisation. The mission should be something that cannot be reached. Collins and Porras “Building Your Company’s Vision” identified that an organisation should have a core purpose within the core ideology.
I believe this core purpose is equivalent to the mission of a company. This has to identify why the organisation exists.

“core purpose is a raison d’etre, not a goal or business strategy”
(Collins and Porras, 1996)

Bill Birnbaum stated that the mission statement has to work for now and the future. Therefore it just cannot be a statement of what you do/make now. It has to be able to work if things change in the future.
The mission statement should be short and understood by employees of all areas within the organisation. If your receptionists, cleaners, sales people don’t know it, then you need to communicate it better, or make it more relevant. Guy Kawasaki has interesting thoughts on mission v mantra in his blog http://blog.guykawasaki.com/2006/01/mantras_versus_.html#axzz1iVAuUZou
If the mission is the reason for being, then the vision is an aspirational statement of where you want to be. The mission statement identifies what you do, and the vision is the desired future. The vision is what you will strive to achieve, there are some who feel it should be attainable and others who feel it can be purely aspirational. A vision is there to provide direction and passion for employees, to let them know where they are going and what you are trying to achieve. Collins and Porras identify 4 types of vision.
· Target –qualitative or quantitative
· Common-enemy
· Role-model
· Internal transformation

If you have set an achievable vision and reach it, you then need to set another. If there is nothing to aspire to, how can you align strategy and effort, the organisation can become a rudderless ship. To help think about a vision, try to envisage your organisation in say 10 years. What would you like it to be like and what would you want it recognised for, that can provide the statement and a direction to take the organisation.


The vision is the direction you are heading; the values are the guiding principles in how you go about achieving this. They are the organisations moral compass, dictating acceptable behaviour and actions. The Latin credo – meaning a set of beliefs is a good way of describing the values. This can often start from those that started the organisation and if strong enough they will survive after they have left. It is not enough to print some nice values, for them to work and staff to buy in then they need to be lived. The core values of the organisation can also assist in recruiting and retaining employees who hold those same values. This can help in maintaining them and embed the organisations culture. Sometimes values in an organisation may not be printed, they are embedded within its fabric and employees are aware of them.


This is now where you put actions into place to achieve your vision, working within the organisations values. This is far more descriptive and measurable than perhaps the mission and vision are. Also strategies can be short, mid or long term. However they should be aligned to the vision, getting the organisation to where it wants to be. Collis and Rukstad in “Can you say what your strategy is?” identified 3 areas of strategy.

· Objective
· Scope
· Advantage – value proposition

To provide a strategy you have to have an objective to work towards, therefore a strategy should have a measurable outcome, within a timescale. These can act like milestones on the way to achieving the vision.
The scope will allow employees and managers to identify where they are operating and who their customers are, and conversely where not to operate. This allows for decisions to be made that keep the organisation focused on its objective.
The advantage is identifying the value proposition you are offering. Are you going for quality or value? Can you provide something that your competitors do not? How do you plan to maximise this to your advantage?
Often when writing a strategy there has to be some trade off, if you are concentrating on growth, you may have to sacrifice profit. If you want to shift high volumes, then you may require larger premises to store products, which may increase your bottom line.

An organisation needs to have a reason for being, and a target to aim for. Importantly this needs to be identified and communicated to the employees at all levels within an organisation. Employees gain a sense of worth can use this to make decisions, as they know what they are aiming towards. A strategy needs to be in place to make the steps towards to target. It seems to be easy to get these confused, however working through the process top down seems to make business sense. I agree with the Collis and Rusktard description of the hierarchy of Company Statements;
· Mission – Why we exist
· Values – What we believe in and how we behave
· Vision – What we want to be
· Strategy – What our competitive game plan will be
· Balanced Scorecard – How we will monitor and implement the plan.

“as you work your way down the hierarchy, the statements become more concrete, practical and ultimately unique”
(Collis and Ruskstad – 2008)
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