Who's on First? Mission or Vision? And Where do Values Fit?


This blog is part of an ongoing series on Strategic Planning. Check out the previous posts:

1) What Strategic Planning 'Isn't' 

2) Struggling to implement your strategic plan? You're not alone.

Vision and Mission statements provide direction, focus, and energy to accomplish shared goals. Values express the integrity that individuals and organizations believe in. They serve as decision-making tools in daily interactions that guide behavior.

A Mission statement provides focus. It should answer:

  • What do you do?
  • For whom?
  • Why?

A Vision statement describes the future, as you see it. It should:

  • Inspire
  • Create excitement
  • Motivate

Values describe your organizational culture. They should:

  • Guide how you do business internally and externally.
  • Resonate with your employees and stakeholders (clients, suppliers, etc.).
  • Define your culture and beliefs. 

I am often asked, what an organization should do with these statements? Which one comes first?

  • I like to state them in the following order: Mission, Vision, Values.
  • Others prefer to see the future first: Vision, Mission, Values.

In truth, I don’t really care which one you decide to put first (sigh.), as long as people know what they mean and how to apply them. So the real question is, how do you link your Mission/Vision, Vision/Mission and Values to the day-to-day operations of your business?

Let’s focus on that that…

Imagine that you are in an operational meeting and one of your leadership team members raises her hands in frustration and says, “XYZ Company has no real focus! We are certainly innovative, as our values suggest we should be, but we are launching products and services that don’t seem to be related! Where are we going?”

 Your Mission creates FOCUS.

Your Vision provides DIRECTION.

Your Values define BEHAVIOUR.

Simply stated, before your company decides to launch a new product or service, your leadership team should discuss whether or not the product or service aligns XYZ Company with the core reason it exists – your Mission. Does is get you closer to achieving your preferred future – the Vision, and does it allow employees to continue to demonstrate the desired behaviours – your company Values? If the answer to any of these questions is no, then you should reconsider that new product or service.

What is the timeframe?

  • The Mission - today. It’s foundational.
  • The Vision - 3, 5 or 10 years out, and for some, as long as 15-20 years. It depends on the complexity of the desired outcome.
  • Values - forever. It takes so long to develop and implement organizational values and build your corporate culture. Figure these out quickly, as they are the most difficult to change. They form the fabric of your organization.

How long should your Mission and Vision statements be?

Great debates occur about how long, short or complex any of these statements should be. I like things to be simple and easy to understand. You may decide that more is better. At the end of the day, as long as your employees understand the statements and can live by them, it’s all good. I would simply say that these statements should not be any more complicated than what your product or service is. Your teams need to be able to relate to the statements and use them in their daily interactions.

What Mission and Vision statements are not.

Your Tag lines and elevator speeches -  those statements are derived from the Mission, Vision and Values. They are not necessarily verbatim. However, the language you and your teams use should be consistent. Yet again, great understanding and ownership of your Mission, Vision and Values come in handy. These are words and phrases that clients, supporters and investors should come to recognize.

So, Who’s on First. What’s on Second… and frankly, I Don’t Give a Darn. Be consistent in the language you use, refer to them consistently and give yourself permission to change them when they are no longer relevant.

About the Author 

Josée Lemoine is the Founder of Pivot Advisory Services providing strategy planning and facilitation services to organizational leaders who want to achieve their Vision faster.


World Strategy Week. 5 Days, 5 Blogs.

Monday – Struggling to Implement Your Strategic Plan, You Are Not Alone.

Tuesday – Mission, Vision and Values, Where Do They Fit into the Plan?

Wednesday – Strategies, Goals, Objectives, Action Plans, What’s what?

Thursday – Key Performance Measures, Data, and Scorecard – Does it Really Help?

Friday – The Strategic Planning Journey. A Step-by-Step Guide to Achieving Success!

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