A vision statement lays out an organisation’s long-term goals. Vision statements are designed to be clear and concise declarations of an organisation’s aspirations that can invoke commitment, motivation and inspiration in its workforce.
A good vision statement should have three primary roles:
- To guide all employees’ decision-making
- To assist in prescribing performance standards and the framework for ethical behaviour
- To inspire and motivate employees
While vision statements may get dismissed as simply an administrative hoop to jump through, resulting in simply an overly-general and abstract declaration of values, firms with a clearly communicated, widely understood, and collectively shared mission and vision have been shown to perform better than those without them .
Typically, vision statements are written by senior managers, although lower levels may have their own specific statement that fits within the organisation’s overarching one. Vision statements are distinct from mission statements: a vision statement declares the desired future position, while a mission statement outlines specific objectives and approaches.
The development process
The resulting vision statement should be relatively short and pithy; however, the process of creating one should take time and significant consideration. To begin the process, ask yourself the following the questions:
- What is the purpose of the organisation?
- What are the core values of the organisation?
- What are the strengths of the organisation?
- What does the organisation want to achieve by next year, five years and ten years?
Some of these questions will be best answered with the help of interviews with other stakeholders.
Once you have clear and detailed answers to those questions, set about formulating the statement itself. Cascade Strategy suggests starting with defining what the organisation does by identifying its output. Output is not simply what the organisation does day-to-day, but the outcome of what it does. Cascade Strategy uses the example of Microsoft who “famously had a vision statement to Put a Microsoft powered computer on every desk in the world (slightly paraphrased). Strictly speaking what Microsoft ‘do’ is make computer software, but for the purposes of their vision, they looked forward to the actual outcome of this process – i.e. computers on desks.”
Then identify what makes your output unique. Be specific to your organisation. Cascade Strategy provides this example of as a vision statement that lacks specificity: “Provide maximum value for our shareholders whilst helping our customers to fulfil their dreams”. It could essentially apply to any company, and provides no clues as to what that organisation actually does. Use your output and your unique qualities to form the basis of your vision statement.
What to avoid
- Do not use words or phrases that are open to interpretation. Keep the language clear and precise.
- Do not use jargon – a vision statement needs to also be accessible to those who do not work within the organisation, so ensure the meaning could be – at least broadly – understood by those without insider knowledge.
- Do not set goals that are unattainable – while being ambitious is encouraged, do not create objectives that are unachievable. It will detract from the commitment the statement is supposed to engender and will facilitate disillusionment and a lack of motivation within the workplace.