Let’s Reinvent the Mission and Vision Statements
Perhaps nothing is more trumpeted — yet ultimately less inspired — than the traditional mission and vision statements.
And there are good reasons for that, starting with these four:
1. They’re long and boring.
When’s the last time you read mission and vision statements that truly got you excited?
Here’s an actual vision statement from a Fortune 500 company:
We earn customer loyalty and respect when we effectively differentiate from our competition and leverage the _______ brand identity standards as a vehicle for impact and success. As a diversified technology company, we rely on the delivery of our brand promise (what we bring to the marketplace), align with the expression of our brand essence (how ________ is able to achieve that brand promise) to ensure understanding and connection with our company, brands and products.
Skipped ahead yet?
2. They all sound the same.
Most mission and vision statements read they were automatically generated from the same set of 25 words. In fact, there’s a mission statement generator on the web, and it would be hysterical if it weren’t so depressing.
3. They’re often indistinguishable from each other.
It’s amazing how often an organization’s mission and vision statements sound like they’re expressing the exact same idea.
4. They’re not written for the right audience.
As the old adage goes, “What’s a camel? A horse drawn by committee.”
Mission and vision statements usually come out as camels because they’re really written to make CEOs and board members happy. If they sound like they’re written by 12 different people, it’s because they are.
Criticism aside, these statements are more important than ever.
They drive culture. They attract (or repel) customers and employees. And they provided a brand “home base” that you can always return to when you get off track.
But they need to change, and here’s how:
Vision statements need to express an “ideal state.”
Your vision is your dream of how the world should be within the framework of what you do.
The MS Society’s vision statement is, “A world free of MS.” That’s it, and it’s perfect.
Even if you sell shower curtain rings like John Candy’s character in Planes, Trains and Automobiles, you should still have a vision. How about “A world in which every shower curtain is safe, easy to use and beautifully adorned”? 🙂
Mission statements should express how you work to achieve your vision — and why you do it.
Again, this should be simple and energizing. If you sell exercise equipment and your vision is “a world free of obesity,” then your mission is probably to give people better access to high-quality, effective exercise equipment.
Whatever your industry, chances are your mission is around empowering people to make good decisions or giving people better access to something valuable and usually out of reach.
Better yet, just write a “What We Stand For” statement.
This is what people really want to know — especially Millennials. In fact, research shows that younger audiences will only give their brand loyalty to companies that stand for something bigger than themselves. This gives you a chance to combine mission and vision statements into one powerful declaration.
Here’s an example we recently developed for a hospital foundation:
We believe in providing the most compassionate treatment for people at their most vulnerable — from life-saving medical technologies and programs, to healing environments and the human touch.
I’ve seen too many people who looked beaten up after developing their mission and vision statements. These statements should energize, not deplete. Ask yourself what gets you out of bed in the morning, and go from there.
About the Author: Tanya Korpi Macleod is the founder of Minneapolis-based Macleod & Co. After more than 25 years of marketing and advertising experience in the U.S. and Europe, Tanya noticed that chasm that often exists between an organization’s theoretical marketing “plan” and its realistic ability to execute it. This led her to pioneer in the concept of “holistic marketing,” which redefines marketing as the complete process of bringing a product, service or company from inception to maximum ongoing profitability. Her mission is to show organizational leaders that a holistic mindset not only promotes a healthier culture, but a more profitable business.