What is the Difference between Mission, Vision, Purpose & Values, ?

Your  mission, vision, purpose and values play an extremely important role in strategy development and in shaping the culture of your organisation.

There is, however, often confusion about what these terms mean because they are often used in different contexts and, therefore, take on different meanings and even the same meaning in some cases.

The confusion about the meaning of business terms such as vision, mission, purpose and values occurs because they are often used in different contexts and, therefore, take on different meanings and even the same meaning in some cases.

Much of this confusion can be avoided if these terms are clearly defined and agreed within the organisation.

This short article summarises the meanings of each of these terms to ensure that everyone is on the ‘same page’ as the organisation moves forward.


A Mission statement describes what an organisation does and for whom in an inspirational way.  It should be based on the organisation’s strategy, setting out the aims, philosophy and values of an organisation, describing what business the organisation is in (and what it isn’t) both now and in the future.

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The vision statement describes what you envision the future of your organisation to be at some pre-defined point in the future.  For example, where will the organisation be in five years and beyond. It should serve as a guiding beacon that describes what the organisation aspires to be.

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Purpose should answer the question “why do you do what you do?”.  The answer to this question should go beyond profit margins and internal benefits and looks towards the long-term effect you want to have on your people, your customers, your markets, your stakeholders, your community and the environment.  In other words, it should explain how people will benefit from your organisations existence.

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The organisations values serve as a moral and behavioural compass.  They set out ethical principles and standards of behaviour for the organisation which creates a culture that is aligned with its purpose, mission and vision.

Values should be clear, written in the company’s ‘voice’ and, importantly, easy to remember.  It is important that there is no ambiguity in the statements that define the values. It is, therefore, not advisable to use just one word.  Equally, they should not be long paragraph since this would be difficult to remember.

A common format for values is to start with a single word, followed by a short but precise definition of what it means to the organisation.  The exact format used will depend on the organisation and the way in which it communicates both internally and externally.

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