So your company has a mission statement, but you just got wind of a second kind of company statement: vision statements. If your mission statement is your company’s North Star, your vision statement is your compass. That way, your team has clarity on where you’re going (mission) and insight into how you’re getting there (vision).
Your vision statement should support and connect to your mission statement to help your team strategically decide on which long-term goals that will help you achieve your mission. But crafting a vision statement takes time and focus. In this guide, we’ll cover how it differs from a mission statement, how to craft it, and some examples of famous vision statements.
A vision statement is your company’s guiding beacon—the direction you plan to go in the future. Your vision statement brings clarity to the overarching “why” and “how” of your mission statement so you can fulfill your overall company purpose.
That’s a good question—and the honest answer is that everyone defines their mission and vision statements a little differently. Sometimes, a company only has one statement, which combines mission and vision. In other cases, companies refer to mission statements as vision statements or vice versa. But here’s how the two statements actually break down:
A mission statement is your company’s purpose. Why are you doing what you’re doing? In a perfect world, what problem are you solving? Mission statements tend to be difficult, if not impossible, to achieve—but that’s why they’re so inspiring.
A vision statement is how you’re going to get there. Your vision statement should define, in extremely broad strokes, how you’re going to achieve your mission statement. In cases where companies only have one statement, the vision statement is the second half, which touches a little on the “how we’ll get there.”
In general, your mission statement is more likely to stay the same, while your vision statement can grow and adapt as your company does. For example, UPS changed their vision as the company grew. Initially, their vision was to be the leading package delivery company that provided “the best service at the lowest rates.” In 1991, that vision evolved. Their new vision statement is “to become an enabler of global commerce.”
If you’re building a startup or re-evaluating your company values, a vision statement is a great idea. You likely already have a mission statement, or are in the process of crafting one. But a vision statement can complement and enhance your vision statement to further guide how your team plans to achieve your mission.
For example, at Asana, we have a one sentence mission: To help humanity thrive by enabling the world’s teams to work together effortlessly. The first half of our statement (To help humanity thrive…) is the mission statement, whereas the second half (... by enabling the world’s teams...) is the vision statement. The second half of our company mission, our vision statement, guides the Future of Asana and powers our product development and company goals.
Vision statements are incredibly important—but they can be challenging to write. Before you dive into writing your own vision statement, check out these famous examples for some writing inspiration.
Now that you’ve read through a few vision statements of some of the most impactful companies in the world, do you notice any commonalities between them? A good vision statement is:
When you read your statement, you should feel inspired to achieve your vision and accomplish your company mission. This should be something your employees can point to and work towards.
Your vision statement shouldn’t be something you can easily achieve. Instead, it should be a statement that your team can rally behind and dedicate themselves to, even if it takes time, effort and energy.
We mentioned your vision statement shouldn’t feel easy to achieve—but it should feel achievable. This statement shouldn’t be so outside the realm of possibility that it feels disconnected from reality and purpose.
A vision statement connects your company mission to your goals, but it isn’t a goal in and of itself. Make sure your vision statement isn’t too focused on a particular part of your business.
Your vision statement should be broad—but not too broad. Keep in mind that this should also feel realistic and achievable, so aim for a strategic vision that feels like an ideal but ultimately achievable outcome.
Keep in mind that the vision statement creation process might not be a quick one—it’s ok if it takes you several meetings and multiple brainstorming sessions to nail one down. If you were involved in writing your company’s mission statement, you know that crafting this type of statement takes time and energy. Don’t expect to come up with a perfect, succinct vision statement in one go—instead, keep working at it and refining it until you have a vision statement you’re proud of.
With that in mind, here are some important vision statement best practices:
Don’t be afraid to workshop your vision statement. During the process, you’ll start by writing a longer statement, so try not to hold yourself back. It’s good to get words on the page—or virtual doc—so you can revise, rewrite, and whittle down.
Keep in mind that this isn’t just your personal vision. Even if you’re the CEO or founder, your vision statement should encompass your company’s vision for the future. Bring in other important company executives and work to co-create your company vision statement.
Avoid jargon. Your vision statement should be as simply worded as possible. Avoid business jargon or buzzwords that would make it hard to understand.
Use words that aren’t open to interpretation. You’re writing a vision statement to guide your entire company towards your mission—so you don’t want different employees to interpret your vision in different ways. Just like jargon, avoid words with complex connotations or multiple meanings.
So, are you ready to get started? Writing a vision statement can be a powerful tool for your company—and it’s also a great exercise to capture what you’re working towards.
Your vision statement should encompass your entire company, so make sure you invite your co-founders, fellow executives, or high-level employees to help you craft your company vision statement. Getting buy-in from executive leadership is also important because the more they believe in the vision statement, the better they’ll communicate it to your employees once it’s drafted.
Ultimately, you want to craft a single, one-sentence statement—but before you can do that, you need to identify keywords that are central to your business. Hold an open brainstorming session with your executive stakeholders to come up with a keyword list—this can be words that are related to your product, your mission statement, your company goals, or even your long-term strategic plan.
In addition to coming up with important keywords, host a brainstorming session with your executive stakeholders to answer the following questions:
At this point, you should have a lot of stuff written down. Obviously, not all of what you’ve just brainstormed is going to make it into your vision statement. Instead, use your key terms and answers to decide which of these elements are most important to your company.
Don’t throw away the rest of it, though! The content you brainstormed is great for other important company documents, like your core values, roadmap, or business plan.
Eventually, your vision statement will be about a sentence long. But before you can get there, take your most important keywords and answers and condense them into a paragraph. Aim for 3-5 sentences—creating a relatively short paragraph will help you with your decision making in steps 6 and 7.
At this point, take a small step back and look at your vision paragraph from afar. Consider taking a break from it for a few days, so you can return with fresh eyes. Remember: your vision statement should be ambitious, but achievable.
For example, if you’re starting an environmentally-friendly ladder company, you’re likely going to include elements of sustainability in your vision statement. You might be tempted to create a vision statement about solving the environmental crisis—but such a statement would be outside of the scope of what your small business can achieve. Solving the climate crisis isn’t something your company can do alone—though you can participate in moving the needle. A better vision statement would be to produce the world’s most environmentally friendly ladders, or maybe even to develop the world’s most environmentally friendly manufacturing process. These visions, while also ambitious, are something you could do on your own.
Now that you’ve crafted your vision paragraph and taken a step away from it, come back and highlight the truly important things. What are the non-negotiables in your paragraph? Aim for a statement that’s around 35 words, and make sure you’re being specific, actionable, and realistic. Remember: your vision statement should be broad enough to connect to your mission, inspiring enough to rally your team, and ambitious enough to keep you going for several years to come.
Your vision statement isn’t set in stone, and this document is something you can change as your company evolves. You might outgrow your vision statement—and that’s ok! Think of it as a living sentence that can mature and evolve as your company does.
But, for now, enjoy the fact that it’s written. Share it with your team, announce it to your customers, and use it to proudly guide your company forward.
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