As it relates to any enterprise, businessdictionary.com offers this definition of a vision statement: “An aspirational description of what an organization would like to achieve or accomplish in the mid-term or long-term future. It is intended to serve as a clear guide for choosing current and future courses of action.
Then we’re directed to read up on a mission statement. Okay, let’s try that.
“A written declaration of an organization's core purpose and focus that normally remains unchanged over time. Properly crafted mission statements (1) serve as filters to separate what is important from what is not, (2) clearly state which markets will be served and how, and (3) communicate a sense of intended direction to the entire organization.”
So how are these two really different?
Interestingly, businessdictionary.com offers the reader an article on this topic submitted by Jeffrey Glen, a writer for the website since 2013. I felt it offered a much clearer perspective.
Here is how Jeffrey clarifies the differences:
A mission statement has a more 'present day' focus and really describes how a company plans on achieving its objectives. This is really a statement to employees, shareholders, and others with an interest in the organization that clearly articulates what an organization is doing, how it's going to do it, and ultimately why it's doing it.
A vision statement has more to do with the future and really describes what an organization plans or hopes to be in the future. This is more of an inspirational or motivational statement that is meant to drive employees and also clearly demonstrate an organization's goals to stakeholders (customers, investors, etc.).
Thus, he draws us to this conclusion: “When considering a mission statement vs. a vision statement the key aspect to remember is the current vs. future context.”
Roy T. Bennett wrote in the The Light in the Heart, “Good leaders have vision and inspire others to help them turn vision into reality. Great leaders create more leaders, not followers. Great leaders have vision, share vision, and inspire others to create their own.”
And that, my friend, is the challenge. Our former President George H.W. Bush struggled with the term vision—yet was able to deliver one.
A quote from his own lips left many wondering whether he would inspire as a great leader if he did not grasp the importance of vision. The quote surfaced in the January 26, 1987, issue of Time magazine. Journalist Robert Ajemian shared this anecdote:
“Colleagues say that while Bush understands thoroughly the complexities of issues, he does not easily fit them into larger themes….This has led to the charge that he lacks vision. It rankles him. Recently he asked a friend to help him identify some cutting issues for next year’s campaign. Instead, the friend suggested that Bush go alone to Camp David for a few days to figure out where he wanted to take the country. ‘Oh,’ said Bush in clear exasperation, ‘the vision thing.’”
Yet President Bush could envision and articulate seeing a “Europe whole and free.” It resulted in a successful strategy that shaped US policy for the next twenty-five years.
The legendary biblical patriarch Abraham was given a vision statement by God. It went, “And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.” (Genesis 12:2, ESV)
He must have learned to rely on that often in times of doubt. Jesus of Nazareth offers His followers a vision as well: ”I am the one who raises the dead to life! Everyone who has faith in me will live, even if they die. ” (John 11:25, CEV)
Try to grasp that vision thing! It can give you a future. And a hope.
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