Understanding Mission and Vision

The first step to any strategic management (or planning) process is defining the Mission and Vision of your organization. So…what does that mean? Very simple: A mission is what you do, your purpose, the reason you exist. A Vision describes what you want to become, how you want to get there, who you want to serve, etc.

If it really is that simple, why do we see so much time and effort spent on these two things? The primary reason is that your mission and vision tell the public who you are, what you do, and how you’re going to make your customer’s life better. This round-and-round process of rewording vision/mission statements is lovingly referred to as Wordsmithing. I won’t deny that this is a necessary process, but let me say this: If you spend all day wordsmithing a mission and vision statement as a committee, you have wasted time and money! Get a rough-draft on paper, and move on. Come back to it later to make it “better”. DON’T GET HUNG UP ON TRIVIAL THINGS.

So how do we know when we have a good mission and vision statement? Generally, a mission statement should address the following: Who your customer is, what you provide, what your market is, your technological edge, your concern for survivability & growth, your philosophy, your self-concept, your concern for your public image, and your concern for your employees. Wells Fargo provides a good example, though they don’t actually call this their mission statement:

The 281,000 team members of Wells Fargo & Company (NYSE WFC) – a nationwide, diversified financial services company – serve 70 million customers through North America’s most extensive financial services network: 11,000 stores, 12,300 ATMs, wellsfargo.com and Wells Fargo Phone Bank.We’re #1 in the U.S. in community banking presence (6,610 stores), mortgage originations, small business lending, middle market commercial banking, agricultural lending, commercial real estate lending, commercial real estate brokerage and bank-owned insurance brokerage. We’re #2 in deposits, home mortgage servicing, and debit card services.Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. has the highest credit rating currently given to U.S. banks by Moody’s Investors Service, “Aa1″ and Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services, “AA+”.

So what about a good vision statement? That’s harder to define. It should be a short explanation of what the organization hopes to become and where the organization is going. Wells Fargo provides another good example :

We want to satisfy all our customers’ financial needs and help them succeed financially, be the premier provider of financial services in every one of our markets, and be known as one of America’s great companies

As a potential customer or investor, this vision statement tells me that WFC wants to continue to help customers succeed, address all areas of finance, and be known as a great company. From a customer, I feel like they want to help me. As an investor, I see that they want to work all avenues of their industry and be the best!

Are all these rules absolute? Certainly not! Take a look at The Coca Cola Company’s Mission and Vision StatementsWhat’s important in the end is that you know what you do, and you know what you want to become!! (You’ll be surprised at how difficult some folks can make this…).

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