Mission & Vision: What’s the Difference?

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Previously, we discussed the importance of vision and mission statements in creating a business plan. Both are important to the success of a growing business, so it’s important to understand the difference between these two similar concepts, and why both are vital to the health and development of a business. Mission and vision statements are both related to an organization’s purpose and aspirations, typically summed in short written statements. But while many people use the terms interchangeably, mission and vision statements have different objectives.

A vision statement explains why a company exists and what purpose it serves. A mission statement explains how the company does what it does. As such, a mission statement usually features a brief explanation of the organization’s daily operations and immediate objectives. In contrast, a vision statement is future-centric and narrower in focus, describing the company’s ultimate goal or where they aspire to be. Vision statements are often loftier in scope than mission statements, as they are dedicated to the company’s future rather than their daily operations. That said, a vision statement still has to naturally relate to businesses’ products or services, otherwise, it will seem insincere and disconnected from the reality of the business.

There is little in the way of hard criteria for what makes a good or bad mission or vision statement, other than being memorable and effectively communicating the goals of your organization. Some mission statements are a couple sentences long, while some can be as little as two or three words. Some businesses have lengthy mission statements and brief vision statements, while others do the opposite.

As an example, consider the vision and mission statements of some successful organizations.

LinkedIn

  • Mission Statement: To connect the world’s professionals to make them more productive and successful.
  • Vision Statement: To create economic opportunity for every member of the global workforce.

TED

  • Mission: Spread ideas.
  • Vision: We believe passionately in the power of ideas to change attitudes, lives and, ultimately, the world.

Toyota

  • Mission Statement: To attract and attain customers with high-valued products and services and the most satisfying ownership experience in America.
  • Vision Statement: To be the most successful and respected car company in America.

All of these examples function a bit differently, but in all three cases, there is a clear distinction between the two statements. While the mission statements are focused on the daily operations and objectives of a business, the vision statements consist of long-term objectives, arguably the “end goal” of the businesses. Both of these are valuable for a business owner: vision offers foresight to guide your daily goals, and a mission makes sure you are taking adequate steps towards that vision.

If the vision statement is your business’ “purpose for being,” then the mission statement says “based on that purpose, this is what we hope to accomplish.” Alternatively, if the vision statement is your destination for a trip, then the mission statement is the route you take to reach it. Both are important, and when combined they provide the core components of an effective business plan. They guide strategic development, communicate purpose to customers and business partners, and serve a criterion to determine whether a company is on track to achieve their goals. Running a business is never easy, but if you have a strong vision and a complimentary mission, you will always know where you stand on the path to success.

Mark Buckner

Mark Buckner is a freelance writer and editor from Hammond, Indiana. A recent graduate of Purdue University Northwest, he has edited two books and written on topics ranging from social media to science fiction film. At this time, he is open to other freelance writing and editing opportunities.