WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN MISSION, VISION, AND VALUES ANYWAY?
The business world is full of buzzwords. They’re bandied around board rooms and used on corporate websites. But what do they actually mean?
Ask ten different business leaders for the definition of mission, vision, and values, and you’ll get ten different answers. Ask for the difference between mission and purpose – more confusion. If you’re feeling particularly masochistic, you may want to enquire how these statements actually fit in with the day to day running of their company. Blank faces all round.
So before we go any further, let’s have a short lexicon update.
Purpose and mission are often confused (hence its inclusion). This is a simple statement that acts as a bold affirmation as to why your company exists.
e.g., Kellogg’s purpose: Nourishing families so they can flourish and thrive
It sets out why the company matters and what impact you have on the lives on your customers. It is the foundation of your mission and vision.
Your mission is what your company actually does (it may also outline your primary clients are and what you deliver to those clients). A lot of companies think their mission statement is the opportunity for them to show off how well they speak “business”. Let’s have a look at FedEx’s mission, for example:
FedEx will produce superior financial returns for shareowners by providing high value-added supply chain, transportation, business and related information services through focused operating companies. Customer requirements will be met in the highest quality manner appropriate to each market segment served [… it continues for a while more…]
Wow – there’s a mission and a half. Now, while the FedEx mission is technically ‘correct’ (in the fact it covers what a mission statement should) – it’s not very digestible. Compare FedEx with Google:
Google: Google’s mission is to organise the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.
Your mission should be short and easy to memorise. It should be specific, clearly explain what you do, and outline how you differ from your competitors.
This is what your company is aspiring to be. It’s not what your company is now, but where you want to go.
e.g., Ford: People working together as a lean, global enterprise to make people’s lives better through automotive and mobility leadership.
e.g., Amazon: Our vision is to be earth’s most customer-centric company; to build a place where people can come to find and discover anything they might want to buy online
Your vision is a picture of what success looks like. It acts as a guide to drive decisions and set goals.
Your values describe the culture and ethos of your company. Coca-Cola defines them rather nicely as a behavioural compass.
They are a set of principles that guide an organization’s internal conduct, as well as its relationship with the external world. Values shouldn’t be built on consensus (how many HR meetings and townhalls have you been in trying to brainstorm company values? What was the result of those meetings? Exactly.)
Values should be set by the senior management and (if possible) the founders of the company. Values are about imposing a set of fundamental beliefs on a group of people.
Leadership: The courage to shape a better future
Collaboration: Leverage collective genius
Integrity: Be real
Accountability: If it is to be, it’s up to me […]
For your values to be authentic, they don’t have to sound like some cheesy caption in a Hallmark card. They just need to be clear and be reflected in the way your company does business.
- You begin with your purpose – why your organization has decided to make a difference
- Your mission sets the path moving forward and shows how your business is going to work
- The company’s vision is your destination – the goal or aspiration
- Values are the way you reach that vision and fulfil your purpose.
WHAT’S THIS GOT TO DO WITH MY BUSINESS COMMUNICATIONS?
So, now that you’ve got your purpose, mission, vision, values, what do you do with all this information? Is this just a box-ticking exercise? Is it time to file them in a drawer somewhere and get on with the business of making money? (I think you can probably guess the answer to this). No.
The fact is, if you have a strong purpose, a clear mission, an inspirational vision, and core values, they will have a positive impact on your bottom line.
Your purpose is an external statement. This is how you get your customers to connect with your company brand. Communicate your purpose and your customers will buy into it. When they buy into your purpose, they’ll buy into the what the company stands for. When they buy into what the company stands for, then they’ll buy from the company.
Your mission is your internal driver. This is a statement that gets all your employees working in the same direction. It provides a focus for your management and staff. It helps them understand why they come into work every day. If your employees are clear in the role they play in the business it’ll have an impact on their morale and productivity. Happy and busy employees lead to a thriving company.
Your vision is also an internal statement. If your employees don’t understand where the company is going (and don’t recognise their role in this journey) then they won’t be compelled to work for it. In order for a vision to be successful, all employees must understand the benefits of reaching this goal, their place in its success, and feel that they have control over the journey. By uniting around a common future, employees will start making decisions and setting goals to achieve it – ultimately leading to the growth of your company.
Your values aren’t just window dressing. Values that have a purpose lead to action. They need to be integrated into every facet of your business – from how you hire and fire, to how your reward your staff, to the kind of clients or suppliers you work with. From their first day to their last, all your employees should be reminded that the company’s core values guide the way they work and every decision the company makes. By building your company around your values, you’ll attract customers who hold similar beliefs, energise your employees, and encourage transparent and aligned decision-making.
IN CONCLUSION: YOU NEED TO DO MORE
It’s said that a message needs to be repeated around seven times before it finally makes an impact.
How often does your company talk about its purpose or mission? What about its values? Do your executives mention them at every internal townhall? Or during press interviews? Chances are, you’re not talking about what you believe in enough.
And if you’re not telling your story, who’s telling it for you?
That’s not all, I’m afraid. With growing cynicism around corporations (have a quick look at the 2017 Edelman Trust Barometer) words aren’t enough.
In order to really create change and resonate with the outside world, a business has to show, not just tell. Through everything it does, a company needs to show what it stands for. Does your company do that?
Beaumont is a communications agency based in Lausanne, Switzerland. We work with clients all around the world to change the way they talk about themselves – helping them create engaging stories that motivate action.