Most organizations have a vision, mission, or values statement. Some have all three. Very few are inspiring, and most don’t really tell you much about what they are doing or at least doing differently. Google “corporate mission statements” and you’ll see most of them seem to come from the same lame template from 1985.
I often say that most mission or vision statements are at best, marginal artwork that covers the walls and halls of organizations. If you are going to come up with a compelling vision for the future, words should matter, and they better inspire.
When I was in the corporate world, our mission statement was vague, uninspiring, and didn’t point to our vision or hope for the future. Still, we had to memorize it and be able to recite it at any time. At the same time on the board room wall, etched in wood and prominently displayed was the quote “Make no small plans for they have not the power to stir men’s souls.” It was attributed to the founder of our company, but I’ve since learned it may have been spoken at a world’s fair years before. Regardless, it was a statement that spoke to me. Every time I saw it, I felt 4 inches taller and more ready to take on whatever mountain of challenges were before me. This wasn’t the company mission, vision, or values. This was a way of thinking and one that inspired boldness to create something great every day.
Instead of giving you a fool-proof formula for creating an effective vision, I am going to share some Dos and Don’ts. This list isn’t exhaustive but should help to get you moving with passion, focus, and buy-in.
DON’T – Spoon feed a vision to your team or your organization.
DO – Involve your key leaders and stakeholders in the conversation.
DON’T – Try to make everyone’s ideas a part of your vision.
DO – Focus on the 1 or 2 main concepts that are the most important.
DON’T – Massage every word, defend words, or argue for specific words before you have nailed down the concepts you are aiming for.
DO – Focus on what you are trying to say and back into words that help you get there. Create single words that help describe the overall concept. Collected them on sticky notes and put them together in like areas of focus
DON’T – Try to make your vision include everything you do now or want to do in the future
DO – Realize your vision is less about what you do and more why you are doing it. It provides the passion or the purpose behind your work.
DON’T – Make your vision so broad that every company could say that it is their vision too. Yes, we know you want to be profitable, serve your customers, add value, etc. So does everybody else
DO – Point out what makes you unique and what others can’t necessarily say is their vision.
DON’T – Create a vision and etch it into marble in your board room.
DO – Revisit your vision every 3-5 years and make adaptations, changes, or new areas of focus as needed.