Multiple bulls eye

Vision.  Mission.  Values.  Culture.  These are fundamental tools in the creation of a resilient, supportive environment that engages its workers.

If you’ve never attempted to create any of these inspirational intangible organizational assets, you’re in for a treat – plus a lot of frustration and (often) confusion.

Creating these motivational beacons to guide employees through their daily workflow in a way that is aligned with the organization’s strategic goals and objects is quite challenging.  Far too often, the result of endless hours spent on a corporate retreat is a series of meaningless platitudes that are variations of those “best practice” examples.

No two individuals are identical in their specific needs, wants, expectations, and desires – the same is true for organizations.  It is in these differences that U.S.P.s (unique selling propositions) are created.

Vision vs. Mission

All organizations – nonprofit, for-profit, or even educational – must generate money in order to survive.  The source of those funds might be through sales, sponsorships, donations, or enrollments.  So, espousing a vision of making millions or billions of dollars annually is neither a vision or a mission – it is merely the end result of the actions that the organization takes (its mission) in order to create a legacy (its vision).

According to The Marketing Blender, visions are all about organizational dreams of how they will change the world.  In contrast, missions are all about the specific ways that the organization will serve its clients and stakeholders – the servant leadership necessary to manifest the world changes that the company dreams about achieving.

Consider the online shoe store Zappos:  its vision to “deliver happiness to customers, employees, and vendors” will be achieved through its mission of “providing the best customer service possible – deliver WOW through service.”

There are critical differences between visions and missions, but BOTH are needed to differentiate the organization from its competitors:

  • Visions provide the why, while missions provide the who, what, where, and/or how.
  • Visions have a long-term focus (strategy), while missions focus on the day-to-day (operations).
  • Visions provide a beacon to the future, while missions concentrate on the present.  
  • Visions must be led, while missions must be managed (Check out my free video for more ideas on when to manage and when to lead.)

In other words:

Visions and missions are NOT interchangeable…
but they ARE complementary and interrelated. 

Finally, both visions and missions are based on the values that the organization holds dear, is committed to implementing throughout its functions, and uses as a foundation upon which to make its decisions.  Here is a short list of core values to consider:

  • Honesty
  • Integrity
  • Truth
  • Equanimity
  • Thoroughness
  • Longevity
  • Adaptability

The Long and Short of Visions

The length of your vision statement is irrelevant.  In fact, some vision statements are quite short, but can be extremely powerful.  Disney (whose assets were valued at over $98 billion in 2018) has a concise 4-word vision:  “To make people happy.”

I can only imagine the hours, days, months, and years that went into fine tuning those four words!

NOTE:  Some sources cite a longer version for Disney that more precisely articulates its vision: “to be one of the world’s leading producers and providers of entertainment and information.”  (Still, that’s only 14 words.)  How Disney will become a world leader is found in its mission statement:  “Using our portfolio of brands to differentiate our content, services and consumer products, we seek to develop the most creative, innovative and profitable entertainment experiences and related products in the world.”

You can usually tell when a company
is struggling with its identity or legacy in the marketplace
when the vision is extremely lengthy, uses generic language,
and fails to incite a powerful emotional response.

What About a 1-Word Vision? 

We’ve all heard the familiar adage in the K.I.S.S. formula (“keep it simple, stupid”).  Visions that are too detailed, lengthy, or filled with jargon defy this wisdom.

From a performance management standpoint, I prefer a vision statement that is short in length, but conveys powerful connotative meanings that incite an emotional response in the organization’s stakeholders.

Leave the action plans for inclusion in the mission statement – but focus on the motivational impact of a vision statement!

At the beginning of a new year or financial cycle, many organizations step back and take stock of their place in the world.  Is the company making an impact – and is it the desired impact?  Are the products and services strategically aligned with realizing the legacy expressed in the vision statement?  Are employees motivated, engaged, and committed to working in a way that ensures that the vision will be realized?

These are tough questions “easily” answered by a simple “yes” or “no,” but they directly relate to organizational results.

Following the K.I.S.S. model, I’ve started using very short triggers that serve as the guiding light (or vision) for all strategic development, operational analysis, problem-solving, and decision-making.

This started several years ago when I was introduced to the concept of eschewing New Year’s Resolutions.  Although these resolutions are often abandoned within the first 30 days of the year (leading to frustration and guilt), I’m far too interested in lifelong learning and continuous growth to not have any new ideas to implement in the coming year!

So, how do you avoid a lengthy “to do” list of new year’s resolutions at work but still identify critical goals, objectives, and performance indicators?

The answer was to use a one-word personal mantra.  When I first began this technique in 2015, I chose the word “forward.”  OK, it’s pretty vague (forward to what?!), but it shows movement focused toward attaining a desirable future.  (In my case, the company was reorganizing from solely providing onsite training to launching an online learning library for clients.)

This simple one-word mantra (“forward”) was surprisingly powerful in its ability to streamline company operations in a variety of ways:

  • During organizational change, it is very easy to fall back into old habits; by responding to the call to go “forward,” I found it much easier to let go of past beliefs, assumptions, and biases regarding markets, products, and services.
  • “Forward” reminded me that the past was…well, in the past.  I only needed to learn its lesson so that I could implement new strategies to move toward the future.
  • The call to move “forward” generated a more finely tuned ability to scan the landscape and find new trails that could lead to my desired vision.
  • For me, “forward” was a call to arms, a wake-up call, and even a motivational nudge to power through difficult challenges and NOT retreat.

This one-word mantra is very similar to the short 4-word version of Disney’s vision (“to make people happy”) and, like Disney’s, is an emotional appeal to do whatever is necessary to achieve the more detailed vision that is the company’s legacy.

So, what about you?  Does your vision statement inspire you?  Excite you?  Compel you to take action to achieve a noble, desirable change in the world?  Is your vision inspired by your dreams – or rooted in mundane daily minutiae that leaves you wondering what you’ve accomplished?

To achieve your vision, maybe all you need is a daily one-word mantra to get you on track, keep you on track, and remind you to celebrate your achievements on the road to success.

Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is the President and CEO of Change Management Solutions, Inc., an eLearning and Coaching company focused on eradicating workplace burnout through the B-DOC Model.  An entrepreneur for over 25 years, keynote speaker, author, blogger, business coach, university professor, and researcher, you can see her “in action” by watching her TEDx Talk on YouTube.  To contact Dr. Puleo, please go to

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