Mission, Vision and Values

A company's mission, vision and values set the direction of the company. These may sound like things that only large companies need (or have the time to do) but you will quickly find, without an overall North Star and guiding direction, you can get lost quickly. Especially in the constantly changing environment of a new venture, these are essential. In this lesson we show you what they are and help you create these for your company.

What are Vision, Mission and Values?

  • Vision Statement. A vision statement describes the organization as it would appear in a future successful state. When developing a vision statement, try to answer this question: If the organization were to achieve all of its strategic goals, what would it look like 10 years from now? An effective vision statement is inspirational and aspirational. It creates a mental image of the future state that the organization wishes to achieve. A vision statement should challenge and inspire employees.
  • Mission Statement. A mission statement explains the company’s reason for existence. It describes the company what it does and its overall intention. The mission statement supports the vision and serves to communicate purpose and direction to employees, customers, vendors and other stakeholders.
  • Values. A values statement describes what the organization believes in and how it will behave. Values create a compass for the company and its employees. This compass guides decision-making and establishes a standard that actions can be assessed against. A values statement defines the deeply held beliefs and principles of the organizational culture.

Establishing a company's mission, vision and values are critical to setting the direction of a company.

How to Create a Vision Statement

A vision statement describes what you want your company to become in the future. Keep the following in mind as you create your vision statement:

  • Inspire. It should be aspirational and inspirational.
  • Not a How To. Ideally, the statement should be one sentence in length and should not explain how the vision will be met.
  • Ask Yourself. When developing your vision, keep these questions in mind:
    • What is unique about doing business with your brand?
    • How would your customers describe your brand
    • Where do you want your company to be in five years?
  • Take Into Account Differences in People. Some people arrive at vision through analysis and others arrive by dreaming about the future. All of these perspectives can drive a great vision - embrace them all.
  • Make the Process Focused. Vision can be the most enjoyable part of planning, but the part where time easily gets away from you.

How to Create a Mission Statement

A mission statement defines the purpose of the company. Keep the following in mind as you create your vision statement:

  • Simple. It should be simple, straightforward, articulate, and consist of jargon-free language that's easy to grasp.
  • It Should Motivate. It should be motivational to both employees and customers.
  • Ask Yourself. When crafting your mission statement, keep these tips in mind:
    • What are the specific market needs the company exists to address?
    • What does the company do to address these needs?
    • What are the guiding principles that define the company's approach?
    • Why do customers buy from you and not your competition?
  • Purpose. Basically, the mission statement describes the overall purpose of the organization.
  • Ask How The Vision Comes to Life. If the organization elects to develop a vision statement before developing the mission statement, ask “Why does the image, the vision exist -- what is its purpose?” This is often the same as the mission.
  • Wording. When wording the mission statement, consider the organization's products, services, markets, values, and concern for public image, and maybe priorities of activities for survival.
  • Sets the Tone for Priority. Ensure that wording of the mission is to the extent that management and employees can infer some order of priorities in how products and services are delivered.
  • Be Concise. When refining the mission, a useful exercise is to add or delete a word from the mission to realize the change in scope of the mission statement and assess how concise is its wording.
  • Does it Make You Unique. Does the mission statement include sufficient description that the statement clearly separates the mission of the organization from other organizations?

Developing Values

Core values are what support the vision, shape the culture and reflect what the company values. They are the essence of the company’s identity – the principles, beliefs or philosophy of values. Many companies focus mostly on the technical competencies but often forget what are the underlying competencies that make their companies run smoothly — core values. Establishing strong core values provides both internal and external advantages to the company:

  • They Should Reflect Your Essence. Some say you don't create your values - you discover them. They should reflect who you really are.
  • They Help Decisions. Core values help companies in the decision-making processes. For example, if one of your core values is to stand behind the quality of your products, any products not reaching the satisfactory standard are automatically eliminated.
  • They Set Your Identity in the Market. Core values educate clients and potential customers about what the company is about and clarify the identity of the company. Especially in this competitive world, having a set of specific core values that speak to the public is definitely a competitive advantage.
  • They Set You Apart with Talent. Core values are becoming primary recruiting and retention tools. With the ease of researching companies, job seekers are doing their homework on the identities of the companies they are applying for and weighing whether or not these companies hold the values that the job seekers consider as important.
  • They are Timeless. Core values are timeless and do not change; they are sustainable in the longer term. They don't change in an economic downturn or in a change of strategy or with a new set of products.

So how do you discover core values? Here are some questions that can help:

  • Are the core values that you hold to be fundamental regardless of whether or not they are awarded?
  • If you woke up tomorrow morning with enough money to retire for the rest of your life, would you continue to hold on to these core values?
  • Can you envision these values being as valid 100 years from now as they are today?
  • Would you want the organization to continue to hold these values, even if at some point, they became a competitive disadvantage?
  • If you were to start a new organization tomorrow in a different line of work, would you build the core values into the new organization regardless of its activities?

The last three questions are crucial because they help to make a crucial distinction between core values and strategies – core values are fixed regardless of the time and factors, internal as well as external, affecting the organization, while strategies and practices should be changing all the time. If the answers are yes for each of the core values chosen, then you have yourself what constitute the identity of your organization.

We have discussed why core values are important and some strategies for setting core values. You may be wondering: what do core values look like? Below is a list of 10 core values that are common across organizations in different industries:

  • Accountability. Acknowledging and assuming responsibility for actions, products, decisions, and policies. It can be applied to both individual accountability on the part of employees and accountability of the company as a whole.
  • Balance. Taking a proactive stand to create and maintain a healthy work-life balance for workers.
  • Commitment. Committing to great product, service, and other initiatives that impact lives within and outside the organization.
  • Community. Contributing to society and demonstrating corporate social responsibility.
  • Diversity. respecting the diversity and giving the best of composition. Establishing an employee equity program.
  • Empowerment. Encouraging employees to take initiative and give the best. Adopting an error-embracing environment to empower employees to lead and make decisions.
  • Innovation. Pursuing new creative ideas that have the potential to change the world.
  • Integrity. Acting with honesty and honor without compromising the truth
  • Ownership. Taking care of the company and customers as if they were one’s own.
  • Safety. ensuring the health and safety of employees and going beyond the legal requirements to provide an accident-free workplace.