Vision statements

Vision statements are one way organizations try to make their intentions clear.

These ways include vision statements and statements of mission, purpose, goals, objectives, and strategic intent.

Phew! What a lot of labels. I find it difficult to come up with a short statement about statements of overarching corporate intentions.

There is such confusion over these terms and the matters that they attempt to represent.

Vision statements can be useful

Whatever you call them, objectives are important. They focus the strategic planning process. They can guide everyone to improve the performance of the organization.

However, in many cases people ignore vision or mission statements. Or, they view them with cynicism.

They see them as an irrelevant ritual gone through by senior management.

Steps to clarity about purpose

I see clear steps all organizations should follow, as they clarify the top most corporate objectives.

First, clear away everything that is not a corporate objective. This includes statements about conduct and strategies.

Second, clearly define the three elements of the corporate purpose.

  • Intended Beneficiaries
  • Intended Benefit
  • Level of benefit seen as satisfactory by the Intended Beneficiaries.

For a business, this is straightforward. The answers are, respectively -

  • Shareholders
  • Profits
  • Satisfactory.

That is all. Does not sound visionary, does it? Therefore, they will not be acceptable to those who must have visionary visions!

As we look at government owned firms, commercial subsidiaries of non-profit organizations, things get a murky. When we get to completely non-profit organizations clarity drops away dramatically. Visions and missions obscure rather than clarify corporate intentions.
For some large corporate examples, go here, and for some non-profit examples try this report.

Doing the right thing

While pursuing the mission or the vision, organizations must behave well. This might be a corporate conduct code separate from visions or missions. These state what the organization is for. Organizations need something more. They need an agreed commitment on the part of the members of the organization to behave well, as they pursue various strategies to achieve their corporate objectives.

This matter should not be as difficult as agreeing visions and so on. The law, one’s common sense, the way other similar organizations behave, all give guidance for most requirements. I believe the No Harm Principle sets the right base line.

Sadly, too many visions mix corporate conduct in with the purpose and strategies.

Vision or mission statements should reflect some organizational distinctiveness. Therefore, you need to make real choices. Asserting that you will be honest, or ethical and so on, hardly represents a mark of distinction. Surely, no organizations would state or imply in their statements of vision that they would be dishonest or unethical. Unless, I suppose your enterprise happens to be in organized crime! Even there, they may be unwilling to say so in their public statements.

Vision and mission statements often declare what an organization aspires to be like, or to achieve. This may be about its standing in its field or industry. Visions often seem the same as mission statements.

For some top managers a vision statement serves as a guide for deciding courses of action.
For others they aim to inspire or motivate the enterprise. Sometimes they are mainly for communicating with external audiences. As such, they are pieces of public relations.

This is all fine. The point is that such statements should come after the purpose has been established beyond all doubt and there has been agreement on what strategies are required to achieve the purpose.

For more on this see Statement of Corporate Purpose, and
Mission Statements.

Return from Vision Statements to Corporate Objectives.

Return to Simply Strategic Planning Home Page.

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