Do you think vision, mission and values have been done to death in your organisation? Why is this? Probably because they are stale – or the people at the top do not make them a key part of the day to day organisation and culture. Maybe your company has not really introduced them. I wonder what you are missing?

Do you, and everyone in your organisation, know where you want it to be in future? Where it is heading? How you are going to get there? What about those in your department or Vision 20 reviews function? (The same principles can be applied down and through the organisation.) I believe that if there is no vision, there is no direction. If there is no direction there is no purpose. If there is no direction – why should people follow you? The role of the boss is to provide this vision, where you are going, and the mission, how you will get there.

Throughout the whole organisation, people need to know the vision, mission and values if they are to be fully engaged. A clear vision which is well-communicated will provide the overall direction and can be cascaded down through every department. People can relate to it, they know how they, and their job, fit with the vision. It needs to be supported with a good mission statement which can help to provide a basis for why people do what they do and also influences the structure of the organisation too. The final part, which I always consider as the foundation, is to make sure the organisation’s values are defined as they underpin much of the culture. In this article, I want to share some ideas and experiences which will enable you to pay attention to these key leadership activities and apply them in your organisation. When you have them, it is easier to develop your strategy and then your business plan. Vision and mission statements have sometimes slipped do being little more than trite sayings. This does not have to the case. Make them mean something, believe in them, keep them to the forefront of your minds and those of the people in your organisation and they will enhance your chances of success.

The vision is an image of an ideal, desirable future state of the organisation. It is what the organisation wants to be. It can be a dream and something which you aspire to well into the future. A good vision will give a sense of direction and yet be vague enough to encourage initiative and can remain relevant as market conditions vary. The vision needs to be shared and provides a point to work from as well as to. One of the most famous “vision statements” was made by J.F. Kennedy – “to put a man on the moon and return him safely to earth, before the decade (the 1960’s) is out.” It gave NASA the dream and the direction. Microsoft see themselves as “putting a computer on every desk and in every home, running Microsoft software.” BA set out to be “the world’s favourite airline.”

The most compelling vision will operate at 3 levels – analytical, emotional and political. It appeals to the head, it captures the heart and it must be shared by the people.

“Effective visions are beacons and controls when all else is up for grabs.”
Tom Peters, Thriving on Chaos

“All men dream, but not equally. Those who dream at night in the dusty recesses of their minds awake to find that it was vanity. But the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, they may act out their dreams with open eyes to make it possible.”
T.E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia)

To create an effective vision statement, especially for an established organisation, requires you to make it a leap forward from where you are and to have a medium or long-term perspective. There is no “right” way to create your vision. It could be a couple of people sitting around over a drink (which may help the creativity and reduce inhibitions!) or a facilitated team session. Although they may be short (eg. Canon’s vision, to beat Xerox), they need to be easily communicated and owned by the top management. This does not mean that they are the result of casual thinking. Good visions will be the result of serious thought and checking through some key criteria. We have often found that when challenging organisations about their visions, they have not checked them sufficiently against these and just view them as a marketing statement. The vision has to be a lot more than this.

When you have a clear vision, you can check that everything in the firm is geared towards delivering this. “To be our industry’s supplier of choice, giving great value.” This could be a sample of a vision statement, without debating where it is flawed! (It could be shortened.) It does also mean that you have to ensure your front-line service from receptionists etc is top-notch as well as your administration, purchasing and finance departments. It is not only the front-line people in the organisations who have to deliver against this!

To show how you are going to make the vision a reality, you need to have a mission statement which fundamentally tells how you will work to deliver it. How will we build the dream? A good way to create a mission statement is to involve a team to brainstorm ideas – and then leave the final drafting to only one or two to do. There are many models for creating mission statements and as many views about how long they should be and what they contain. We prefer them to be clear and to the point. A simple approach is to answer three questions, keeping the vision in mind and also think of it from a client’s perspective:

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