Your purpose, mission and vision play an extremely important role in shaping the culture of an organisation but there is often confusion about what they mean.
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 defined and agreed within the organisation. This short paper summarises the meanings of each of these terms to ensure that everyone is on the ‘same page’ as we go forward.
The diagram below shows how the various element of the strategy model fit together and how Purpose and Values sit outside of the model, acting as a sort of moral or ethical compass that guides the overall direction of the organisation and tend to remain consistent, even when the vision and goals change.
Purpose should take the mission statement to a whole new level by answering the question “why do you do what you do?”. The answer to this question should go beyond profit margins and internal benefits and look toward the long-term effect they want to have on their customer base, their industry, the economy and/or the environment. In other words, it should explain who benefits from its existence and in what way.
Purpose tends to be defined when the organisation is created since that is the point at which the reason for starting the organisation is most clear. Creating a statement of purpose retrospectively can, therefore, be challenging but not impossible. Figuring out why your organisation exists (beyond financial gain) makes it easier for you and those you work with to find fulfilment in doing it. When people see the value in what they are doing or offering it will inspire the behaviours that you are seeking from them.
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 so it is 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 work, followed by a short but precise definition of what it means in the context of the organisations values. The exact format used will depend on the organisation and the way in which it communicates both internally and externally.
The vision statement describes what the organisation will look like in the future – where do we want it to be in three to five years and beyond. It should serve as a guiding beacon that depicts the kind of future to which the organisation aspires.
A carefully crafted vision statement will communicate your company’s goals to management and staff using motivational language. It should encourage people within organisation to think beyond their day-to-day activities in a clear, memorable, way by providing them with direction and focus. This will help to motivate them to concentrate their efforts on activities that will help the organisation attain its vision and will serve as a filter for making important decisions, ensuring that staff are all on the same page which can make them more productive.
As a company grows, its objectives and goals may change. Vision statements may, therefore, need to be revised over time to reflect the changing business environment as goals are met and/or the business landscape changes. However, when you’re writing the vision statement, you should approach it as a document that will last at least several years.
A Mission statement describes what an organisation does and for whom in an inspirational way. A mission statement set out the aims, philosophy and values of an organisation, describing what business the organisation is in (and what it isn’t) both now and projecting into the future.
Its aim is to provide focus for management and staff on which to base all business decisions and strategies. It should encapsulate the product or service you deliver, the audience you deliver it to and the problem it solves.
The mission statement should provide clear answers to the following questions: What do you do? What is your product or service? What is your market? How far is your reach? What words does your company use to describe its services?