What Is A Vision Statement?

By Sean Stevenson – Latest Revision January 16th, 2021

Defining A Vision Statement

A vision statement provides a way for a company to convey its mission and core values to the world. 

Particularly for employees and other stakeholders, a vision statement can inspire efforts to build a better organization.

The best vision statements are relatively simple yet often convey a deeper meaning in their wording.

In some respects, a vision statement is similar to a mission statement.  Yet where a mission statement will describe the who, what, where, and why of an organization’s purpose, a vision statement tends to characterize the long-term pursuits of a business structure.

Example

A great example of a vision statement today, is Apple’s own, “We believe that we are on the face of the earth to make great products and that’s not changing.”

Through this simple sentence, Apple as a company is conveying to its customers that it is in the tech game for the long haul.  We can easily discern that they mean to keep producing high quality products for consumers, and that nothing will change their customer-centric focus.   

This vision statement is well-known, and for good reason.  Not merely because it came from Apple, but because it demonstrates a singular purpose. 

Key Takeaways

  • For your own use, a vision statement should be a personal endeavour.
  • Make a vision statement for your company that is honest, compelling, and rooted in what matters most in your world.
  • Try to sum up your own purpose, or that of your business, in as few words as possible. Then add why it matters to others.
  • Never try to force a vision statement. These things can often take time to fully develop, or to create new ideas.  When you reach your own sense of vision through hard toil and sacrifice, you will know it.  That is when you should sit down and write out your own vision statement.

Understanding The Purpose Of A Vision Statement

Creating a vision statement can intimidate even the most seasoned of business professionals.  There is no margin for error if you want your company’s vision statement to convey your mission and your message. 

Customers today often do intensive research into the products they purchase.  This includes learning about the company involved as well.  One of the first things they often look for, is your slogan, or your vision statement (which are often either the exact same, or innately similar).

Moreover, a well-devised vision statement will inspire others and define your core values as an organization.  Conversely, a weak or flippant vision statement will deter consumers from working with you to fulfill their needs (that means no sales for you).

By generating an honest and inspiring vision statement you are sending a direct message to customers, suppliers, and your own stakeholders.  It is akin to stating openly that you are ready to serve, and indeed, to thrive. 

Perhaps one of the most well-known vision statements is Disney’s own, “To make people happy.”  Yes, it really is potentially that simple.  Through no uncertain terms, Disney conveys its entire viewpoint, core values, and mission as a corporation – to simply make people happy.

While your own vision statement might be slightly more complex, the same principle should apply.  Keeping your ideas simple enough to easily get your message across, while attaching core values in your statement, is the ideal way to attract customers.  People love a branding story.  It gives them perspective and a sense of what was previously unknown.

What Research Tells Us About Vision Statements

The importance of vision statements to a workplace culture cannot be overstated.

Research has shown that employees who believe their company has a meaningful vision statement and –by extension- purpose have vastly improved levels of engagement.  In fact, they tend to be far more productive, and effective at engaging with the public.

In a study conducted by Forbes, over 50,000 employees were polled.  They found that a meaningful vision statement increased employee engagement by over 28% above average.  This is a staggering figure.  Particularly given the increasing tendency for higher employee engagement to greatly impact the overall success and welfare of an organization.

What Is A Vision

Meaningful vision statements help guide workplace culture, resulting in engagement levels that are 28% percentile points above average (when compared to poor and average ratings found in similar facilities).

Several significant elements have been identified as key to crafting an effective vision statement.  These are as follows:

1. The Vision Inspires and Motivates Others

Any vision statement that fails to inspire will leave employees scratching -or shaking- their heads.  Investors and stakeholders too, will sooner walk away before ever engaging with a company that fails to effectively convey its own message.  Crafting a story-telling brand is key to success.  No company will ever thrive without teaching others about the benefits their organization can offer.  Likewise, no workplace culture can remain productive, if they do not believe in their own mission.

2. Employee Engagement and Satisfaction Are Opted In

Whenever a company enjoys a motivated and engaged workforce, it is more likely to have greater buy-in towards a vision for the future.  Workers will actively strive to improve the company independent of any direction.  They tend to feel personal ownership of corporate objectives and policies.  In other words, creating resonance with a powerful vision statement will only serve to inspire your employees.  They’ll work towards the future you envisioned, knowing full-well how it will positively impact their lives.

3. Unique Innovations Are Implemented

Any vision worth its salt understands that the future is always fast approaching.  This means that tailoring your aspirations towards growth requires innovative thought and processes.  Being handcuffed to old ideas or ideologies is a recipe for stagnation.  Ultimately, no employee wants that.  They want simplicity and results.  By growing the company’s innovative processes organically, and gaining the buy-in of employees, a vision can grow beyond its roots.  It can become an all-encompassing thought process that dominates attitudes and actions for the betterment of all.  For employees, this means seeing that their organization can change and grow through its own innovation.

4. The Vision Is Shared In Many Mediums

Most organizations do a poor job of communicating their ideals and vision to their own people.  Often, there are few channels or flows of information that are diffusing key points about the importance of the tasks at hand.  Often, this is due to internal confusion about who should actually be communicating this information in the first place.  Some claim that it should be HR that reports a company’s vision for the future to its employees.  Others say that the CEO, or upper-management should be more focused on delivering important messaging to stakeholders.  Ironically enough, there is no “go to” answer to this question.  In reality, it should be everyone possible, at every level of the organization, that communicates the shared vision of the future to the company’s workforce.  Embracing and executing such an effective diffusion of information, inevitably increases success rates of any ongoing enterprise.

5. That Leadership Remains Honest And Transparent

So often today, we find our leaders at fault for being dishonest and cruel in their intent.  Whether in politics or business, we have all seen this unfortunate dynamic play out.  It causes untold damage to the sanctity and capacity of our institutions.  When people no longer feel they can trust their leaders, a vision ends up being regarded as meaningless and is swiftly abandoned.  A key aspect of building trust and normalcy with any group, is sharing information openly.  Regardless if the facts are for better or worse, the open honesty goes a long way.  It demonstrates a sincerity that no matter what happens, there will be open and fair discourse for all.

6. Words Are Followed By Action

A vision statement alone is not enough.  All too often, many organizations witness their leaders offering hollow words and no real action.  This demoralizes support, leaving workers to ponder the merit of those who would claim to be their superiors.  Employees need to witness first-hand that their leadership is acting in their interest.  While dramatic examples are often counterproductive and lack substance, simple gestures of solidarity can go a long way.  This means “getting in the trenches” with employees to learn both about them and their concerns.  Often, this action can yield surprising results.  It is not merely a boost to morale (which can go a long way), but it also offers a unique resource in terms of the information that can be gained from the frontline.

7. Results Become Apparent As The Vision Succeeds

Creating positive outcomes and openly highlighting success can have a huge impact on a work environment.  Turning everyone’s focus not only to the vision statement itself, but to its positive effects, can create a whole new context for organizational success.  This helps foster organization-wide engagement.  Moreover, it promotes awareness of how the company interacts with the outside world.  Employees tend to become exuberant with the knowledge that they are part of a unique productive structure, which enjoys positively impacting a business or social landscape.

8. The Company Is Accountable And Agile

When a sense of agile accountability and a focus of change permeate a workplace culture, people begin to fully realize a vision for the future.  Any organization that can embrace effective changes quickly, is guaranteed to prosper as a result.  When workers understand that they are part of a dynamic and successful enterprise, their attitudes reflect that knowledge.  They become more eager, often taking greater pride in their day-to-day operations.

Difference Between A Vision Statement And A Mission Statement

In order to further associate the meaning behind a vision statement, we must compare it.  Contextually, a vision statement is often cited as a document that states current and future objectives that an organization wishes to achieve.  However, it is also intended to persist as a constant guide for future endeavours.

On the opposite spectrum, stands the mission statement.  It is a short statement also.  Yet as opposed to being a vision for the future of an enterprise, the mission statement exists to identify current goals, products, services, and even operations.

Thus, we can easily deduce that a vision statement is rooted in future prospects and ideals, whereas a mission statement is more about current affairs. 

Used effectively in tandem, a vision statement and a mission statement can paint an accurate portrayal of a company’s status.  This includes its ideals, dreams, thought process, and current situation.  These things can inspire workers and provide guidance to the overall direction of concerted efforts within an enterprise.

So while they are separate statement formats with different purposes, they both serve to paint a picture of the organization they were created to represent.  Whereas the vision is for inspiration, the mission itself is immediately apparent and actionable.

How To Craft Your Vision Statement

In writing a vision statement of your own, you must consider the size of your operation first.  If there are many employees, you will have to select the insights of a few core people to represent the larger whole.  If your operation is smaller, then you may be able to get away with interviewing everyone to get their input on the greater vision at play.

In effect, you may decide to host a meeting to discuss the future and current vision of your organization.  Conversely, hosting a competition to see which department or team can create the best iteration of your vision statement may also be a pleasant option to consider.

The key is to obtain as much feedback as possible when determining your company’s vision statement.  Wherever possible, seek to gain insights about what your own people value most.  This will give you a deeper understanding of what your workforce collectively sees as important.

As a final measure, you may find it prudent to interview key individuals.  That is, those who seem most keen to contribute to the founding statements that will come to represent your workplace vision.  This can at times prove the most effective method of all.  One-on-one meetings tend to produce the most honest and forthright feedback.

Once you have gained your important insights, it is now time to categorize the themes you have discovered.  The most recurrent of these should be your focus, with the next challenge being how to represent the themes in greater detail, using only a few words.

What Is A Vision

"The impact of your vision, while quiet and ever present, will be astounding over time as it becomes a reality."

-Steve Schallenberger, Becoming Your Best: The 12 Principles of Highly Successful Leaders

How To Use A Vision Statement Effectively

Having actively engaged with key stakeholders and employees, you must now format your vision statement sensibly.  This requires developing its appearance so that it can be integrated for use in your workplace culture.

Try to think strategically about what will invoke the biggest response from your own people.  How can you include an idealistic vision of the future, while involving the most important topics that matter the most to everyone involved? 

Ultimately, your vision statement should align everyone’s goals.  It should send a clear message that breeds inspiration and motivation. 

In short, if you can look at and read your vision statement without becoming excited, you’ve done it wrong.  It should be deeply meaningful to you and everyone who works with you, no matter their role.

It should also be noted that a vision statement is by no means a static document.  It must evolve with the organization of which it is a part.  As your mission and ideas change, so too must your vision statement.  No matter what, however, it must always drive to inspire those who read it.  Employees must believe every word and feel motivated to carry out the larger goal at hand.

Rewarding those who follow and uphold the tenets of the vision statement is also advisable.  This sends a clear cultural message that merit in accordance with the organization’s belief-system are to be celebrated.

How To Lay Out A Vision Statement

Developing a powerful vision statement can seem daunting.  But if you have followed the steps laid out in this guide to the letter, you’ll already have the necessary tools.  Consider:

  • Your company’s purpose
  • The ways you are unique and can be differentiated from your competition
  • What goals matter most to you and your organization
  • How you will positively impact your customers
  • What values you adhere to
  • The wording you can use to keep your vision statement concise and to the point
  • How you will solve problems for others and provide value

 

Remember that a vision statement should never be more than a sentence or two in length.  This makes it easy to memorize and can be repeated by anyone, anywhere, at any time.

For anyone who is unfamiliar with your organization, it should also be easy to understand.

In spite of all this, never settle for a quirky turn of phrase, or something you feel is “trendy.”  It must come across as intelligent, inspiring, and memorable.  It should have an air of dedication to its wording, and signify professionalism in your industry.  Try to establish the core vision for your company, and the positive impact it will have on those who pursue what it has to offer.

All of this ensures that your company will be taken seriously.  It must be avidly remembered by those who will be interacting with it.  Some additional questions that can spur your own inspiration to create a powerful vision statement are:

  • How will the company interact with consumers and other businesses?
  • What impact will the organization have on the immediate community, and around the world?
  • How will employees see the business? What kind of workplace culture should be pursued?

After carefully considering these, try to extract important meanings that will help you better define your organization’s process.  Use this as a roadmap to develop your own vision of what the future may look like for your company.

Never be afraid to court controversy with a risqué vision statement.  If you feel that you have a position that some people may not like, or a perspective that is uncommon, this too can actually prove an asset.

A generic and uninspired vision statement will not help your company.  It could actually have an adverse effect on any business.  So do not hesitate to create a broad and challenging vision, that details your most innate beliefs as a company.

Further Resources

If you still find yourself unable to forge your own vision statement, there are various free options online that can provide you with valuable resources.  These templates and worksheets offer excellent methodology in crafting any kind of vision statement.  They can easily help you readily define your ideas and put pen-to-paper as you finalize your work. 

Listed below are five resources that provide worksheets for developing powerful vision statements that any company can make use of:

These templates are all absolutely free for anyone to make use of.  They provide step-by-step instructions to ensure you get the most out of your vision statement.  Identifying core values, objectives, and key prioritization, is easily achieved following their process.  This will help you to fully develop your ideas. 

Pro Tip:  For best results, involve key stakeholders or employees in your creative process!  It is surprising how often the very best ideas come from the effort of a few determined minds!

Vision Statement Examples To Consider

As a matter of convenience, here is a list of some of the most inspired vision statement examples available today.

This should help spur your creative juices as you craft your own sensibilities and ideas for a robust vision statement of your own!  This list is as follows:

  • Teach For America: “One day, all children in this nation will have the opportunity to attain an excellent education.”
  • Creative Commons: “Realizing the full potential of the internet – universal access to research and education, full participation in culture- to drive a new era of development, growth, and productivity.”
  • Microsoft (at its founding): “A computer on every desk and in every home.”
  • Australia Department of Health: “Better health and wellbeing for all Australians, now and for future generations.”
  • LinkedIn: “Create economic opportunity for every member of the global workforce.”
  • Disney: “To entertain, inform and inspire people around the globe through the power of unparalleled storytelling, reflecting the iconic brands, creative minds and innovative technologies that make our the world’s premier entertainment company.”
  • Facebook: “Connect with friends and the world around you on Facebook.”
  • Oxfam: “A just world without poverty.”
  • Nike: “Bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete* in the world. (*If you have a body, you are an athlete.)”
  • Ford: “People working together as a lean, global enterprise to make people’s lives better through automotive and mobility leadership.”
  • Avon: “To be the company that best understands and satisfied the product, service and self-fulfillment needs of women- globally.”
  • Tesla: “To accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy.”
  • Sony: “To be a company that inspires and fulfills your curiosity.”

Additional Tips and Ideas For Creating Your Ideal Vision Statement

A great vision statement is the product of looking deep into the future and surmising what you believe your company can do better.  Carving out that place in your mind where you can see a highly actionable goal, and then conveying that objective to the world, is key to formulating your own identity.  What makes you unique, what sets you apart, and what you are determined to one day achieve, should all be a part of those words you develop.

The primary risk in using our imaginative senses, is that we can often sound too vague or unconvincing.  To counter this, try to channel your most legitimate passions about the industry you are in.  Make it undeniable that you are a potent force that will one day achieve something unreal.

All too often, many leaders tend to remain overly cautious.  They shield themselves from potential failure by hiding behind semantics.  Fearing the implications of failure, they do themselves a disservice by not actively pursuing their goals with vehement determination.

Do not make that same mistake.  Convey your full beliefs and use all of your faculties to forge ahead.

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