Having worked in fthe field of marketing for a number of years, one of the major recommendations that many marketing consultancies and marketing managers give is to ‘write out a vision & mission statement‘. For those who have luckily managed to miss this bit of corporate speak, from Wikipedia:
Vision: outlines what the organization wants to be, or how it wants the world in which it operates to be (an “idealised” view of the world). It is a long-term view and concentrates on the future. It can be emotive and is a source of inspiration. For example, a charity working with the poor might have a vision statement which reads “A World without Poverty.”
Mission: Defines the fundamental purpose of an organization or an enterprise, succinctly describing why it exists and what it does to achieve its vision. For example, the charity above might have a mission statement as “providing jobs for the homeless and unemployed”.
As you can probably tell, I’m not a huge fan of this. I’ve gone into too many meetings where after hours spent discussing ‘what is the Vision’, ‘what is the Mission’; the end result is a bunch of non-definitive gobbley-gook that uses the most popular lingo of the week. Sure, there’s lip-service given to making sure everyone involved ‘buys-in’ to the vision, that everyone’s views are a given but the truth is quite often these exercises are just good ways to pad a consultants bill.
Worst, it can often tie a business down. So many startup companies begin with an idea and end-up veering off course (quite successfully too). A written vision or mission statement; if slavishly followed, can tie someone down to a course that might not be viable.
Lastly, all too often what you view as your vision / mission is often just internal fluff that has no bearing on what customers / suppliers / government agencies view you as. Do you know what Apple’s vision statement is? Do you care so long as they continue to produce shiny new i-things?
All that being said, a clear vision and mission statement can provide guidance when needed. Zappos emphasizes customer service above all else – letting profitability fall by the wayside in their goal to create a truly memorable customer experience. Johnson & Johnson used the guidance of their vision statement to pull off one of the fastest and most comprehensive callback during their drug-tampering crisis.
Perhaps more importantly, these vision / mission statements help guide hiring and thus the development / preservation of your company culture. It’s not really a problem when you have a 2 or 3 person team; but when you are hiring your 100th employee making sure they have the right mindset to work for you becomes much more important.
So What’s Ours?
As you can guess, I’ve never bothered to write either statements. I have a general idea about where we are going and what I’d like from the company and beyond that, I’ll just see what the world brings.