Vision – Mission, Synonyms They Are Not!

Gregory A. Kvidera
Maplewood, MN

Mark Komen, President
Kodyne, Inc.

Having been associated with several businesses over the years it still amazes me how many small to medium size organizations do not know the difference between a Vision Statement and a Mission Statement.  As Marketing and Sales must work together, the company’s Vision and Mission need to work together. One drives the other. Identifying the right markets helps achieve efficient successful sales. Establishing the Vision gives focus to achieving the Mission.

Vision and Mission are often treated as interchangeable, synonymous nouns. However, thinking about these separately allows a company to describe its eyes, heart and soul in a very active way, significantly improving its ability to succeed in both the short and long term.  Together, they serve as a rallying point for employees and a commitment to customers.

The Vision defines where the company wants to be at some point in the future. The dictionary describes vision as “having foresight”. For organizations, this reflects where/what the owners, stakeholders, or executive staff wants to see the company become.  Getting buy-in from the employees on the Vision as well as the management staff to walk the talk is crucial for the company to achieve it.

Stating the Vision in simplistic terms fosters understanding and improves the organization’s ability to achieve it.  Visions that are short and to the point seem to have the best chance of success.  A couple of Vision statements I have seen are: “30 by 7” and “To become North America’s favorite outdoor sporting goods manufacturer.”  While these could mean different things to different companies, to the company that created them, they meant one thing: their company’s direction. The vision “30 by 7” belonged to an $8,500,000 organization that wanted to grow to $30,000,000 by the 7th year. The latter one belonged to a company that made ice shelters and wanted to expand from a single-season business to a year-round operation, completely outside their current product offering.

The Mission on the other hand, represents the company’s marching orders – what is being offered by the company and how they want their customers to perceive them. It should represent how to achieve the vision, insights into the company’s core values, and how someone would know if they achieved the mission.  An example would be:

“To provide innovative process techniques in the manufacture of primary/custom components and assemblies to our customers on-time, every time at a competitive price and be recognized as their best valued supplier”.

Once the Vision and Mission are established, creating the company’s strategic and operational business plans becomes much easier.  These then have a significantly better chance at becoming living functional documents instead of the most common kinds: dust collectors and paperweights.

This article was published in the April 2003 issue of Tips from the Top (Vol. 22, No. 4) – a publication of The Alternative Board, Denver, CO.

© 2003.  Greg Kvidera, Mark Komen.  All rights reserved worldwide.