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What is Mission vs. Vision: Definition, Examples, and More

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A green flag with hollow filling placed to the left of an outline of an eye, with the iris also outlined in green, to signal mission vs. vision

What is mission vs. vision?

Without a clear mission or vision, your company will be defined by chance.

On the other hand, simply having a mission and vision statement won’t guarantee business success. The question of “where you’re going” (vision) and “how you’ll get there” (mission) will ensure you’re on the right path with your strategy.  

The success of your mission and vision working together depends on how you communicate it, align your organization to it, then inform your goals and objectives with it.

In this article, we’ll explore:

  • What mission and vision statements are
  • Similarities and differences between mission vs. vision
  • The importance of mission and vision to your strategy
  • Mission and vision statement examples 

Mission and vision statements, defined

Mission statement

Your mission statement is your purpose, declared, defining exactly what your company is doing now. It’s an embodiment of what you stand for, who you’re doing it for, and how you’re accomplishing it.

The mission statement shouldn’t exist in some arbitrary Word document or company webpage nobody will ever see. It’s the wheel of your ship, and without it, you’re floating aimlessly in the ocean of your business.

Vision statement

If a mission statement is about where you’re presently going, your vision statement is like looking into a fortune teller’s crystal ball. It’s a glimpse into your company’s desired future, even more bold and high-reaching than the mission statement, highlighting the grand value or change you hope to drive in the world.

A well-crafted vision statement is something your teams can rally around — it invokes the passion, curiosity, and innovation all great companies are known for.

Mission vs. vision

When trying to differentiate between the mission and vision, use this simple breakdown.

Mission vs vision statement, differentiated by the present (mission) versus the future (vision)

A mission statement:

  • Keeps the present in mind, defines what you’re doing
  • Directly motivates objectives and goals
  • Inspires your company culture

A vision statement:

  • Keeps the future in mind, defines where you’re going
  • Directly motivates your company’s direction and purpose
  • Inspires your company growth

While the concepts of mission and vision are different, it’s common for companies to combine them into one overarching company statement. Take this statement from Mercedes-Benz:

Bold: mission. Italics: vision.

“At Mercedes-Benz, we are driven by a passion for creating the world’s most compelling luxury vehicles. We do this by following our core values of innovation, quality and efficiency. We also adhere to our guiding principle: ‘the best or nothing’.

Now that we’ve explored the similarities and differences between mission and vision, let’s see their practical applications to your strategy. 

The importance of mission vs. vision in strategic planning

Your mission and vision serve as the direction for goals, objectives, and day-to-day tasks. Without this foundation, your operations will exist in silos without a sense of direction.

Mission and vision help with strategic planning on three fronts:

  1. Alignment
  2. Engagement
  3. Focus
Mission and Vision pyramid: vision, mission, goals and objectives, then tasks and to-do's on the bottom of the pyramid

Alignment

Think of vision as the top of your business pyramid. It is the north star for everything your organization does, bringing clarity to where you’re trying to go. From it flows the mission, which defines how your organization will get there.

Below the mission comes organizational goals and objectives. Since the mission and vision inform corporate strategy, these goals and objectives direct your business and function-level strategies.  

Alignment is a challenge because some organizations begin with goals first, then connect those to higher-level strategy, rather than using strategy (mission/vision) to inform goals.

Thanks to the vision and mission, the tactical to-dos and daily operations have structure to align to, making your organization more productive.

Engagement

Your teams are more than the sum of their roles and responsibilities — they’re humans who want to be inspired through purpose. Your business’s mission and vision can provide this purpose.

In parallel with alignment, mission and vision are the anchoring points to the greater ideas of the company. 

When your teams have a clear sense of how their contributions align with the company vision, mission, and each other, engaging them with the process becomes easier.

Focus

In a business environment obsessed (or cursed) with the idea of “more,” the importance of focus in a Modern Operating Model is evident.

With a clearly communicated vision and mission, there’s no more guesswork on what needs to be accomplished in your organization. Your team’s objectives and technical tasks now have a springboard for driving true impact.  

In the OKR framework, for example, high-level objectives connect directly to your mission, creating immense clarity on desired outcomes. From there, key results quantitatively inform how those objectives (tied to your mission) are achieved. Then, daily tasks and KPIs drive progress up the funnel to key results, objectives, and ultimately, your mission and vision.

Paired with the right goal-setting methodology, mission and vision are more than statements to make your business sound good for investors and customers — they’re your hack to organizational focus. 

Company mission and vision statement examples

Check out three strong examples of mission and vision in action.

  • Bold: Mission statement
  • Italics: Vision statement

Company: Nike

To bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete* in the world (*if you have a body, you are an athlete). We see a world where everybody is an athlete — united in the joy of movement.

Why it works: Nike is a global powerhouse in a sports apparel and branding — their worldly-focused vision statement (everybody is an athlete) is backed by a mission statement that’s both aspirational (inspiration and innovation) and approachable (by labeling everyone an athlete).

Company: Starbucks

To inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup, and one neighborhood at a time, by establishing Starbucks as the premier purveyor of the finest coffee in the world while maintaining our uncompromising principles while we grow.

Why it works: Starbucks is another industry leader, built on the brand of empowering people. Their mission statement is rooted in this motivational empowerment (nurture the human spirit), while the vision connects to their (uncompromisable) footprint on the world.

Company: Adobe

To change the world through digital experienceswe connect content and data and introduce new technologies that democratize creativity, shape the next generation of storytelling, and inspire entirely new categories of business.

Why it works: Adobe’s vast product offerings and services could complicate its greater focus. But its simple, yet powerful mission statement serves as a tactical lens (change the world) for a vision statement demonstrating the company’s diversity (content, data, creative democracy, storytelling, etc.).  

Putting your mission and vision into action

Well-crafted mission and vision statements are as actionable as they are inspiring.

If you're curious about connecting your mission and vision to your company's goals and objectives, OKRs might be the right fit to accomplish that.


See how OKRs could benefit your business

OKRs for business.png

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