Over the years I have guided teams to adopt or was instrumental in developing the corporate vision in the organization in which I was involved. My research and observations are that many leaders of organizations have clean and concise vision statements yet others may not but often confuse the vision statement with the mission statement. Here, I will define vision and the vision statement, discuss its importance, and provide examples. This will answer questions about “What is a vision statement?”, Why is it so important?”, How do you write it?”, and “How is it applied in business?”.
What Is A Vision Statement?
Before delving into what a vision statement is, let’s first look at the word itself. The word vision is defined as “someone’s idea or hope of how something should be done, or how it will be in the future.” [https://www.macmillandictionary.com/us/].
It may not come as a surprise that the vision statement is how the leader or a team of an organization sees the business in one or even five years from now. Thinking big and very far reaching when applied to business; a vision statement almost seems like a dream that won’t happen. A vision statement also answers what impact your company will have on the specific demographic, community, or even the world.
As an example, when I started with Microsoft in the early 1990s, the vision statement went something like this…Windows on every desktop, in every home, school, and workplace. The first half of this sentence, that is, “Windows on every desktop” is the core component of the vision statement. It was Bill Gates’ vision for the future and to many seemed very unattainable. However, given the clear direction that was presented, the Microsoft employees were committed and went to task.
Example Vision Statements
California Community Colleges’ Vision
Making sure you succeed in reaching your goals.
Ingram Micro’s Vision
Ingram Micro will be universally regarded as the best way to deliver technology to the world.
We are the embodiment of the energy and events of our times, inspiring people with a pioneering spirit.
University of Ghana’s Vision
Our vision is to become a “World Class research-intensive University” over the next decade.
City of Chicago’s Vision
A city of thriving communities where all residents are able to live healthy lives.
“To become the most reputable dental clinic of our region.”
[Note that Spear Education’s vision statement is one example that was revised for our current environment and in preparation for post COVID-19.]
Why Is It So Important?
Just like an architect designs a building with the proper foundation, good leaders understand the value in not only a well written but well executed vision statement. It provides a solid foundation on which to build a company. When companies don’t have a vision, both documented and communicated to all involved, it generally stems from poor leadership, lack of communication resulting in disjointed teamwork or poor financial performance.
Having a great vision statement that is genuinely adopted throughout a company makes it easier to breed success. Lastly, it serves as a reminder and reference for everyone in the company. If there may be any hesitation in execution, the vision statement typically can help clear up any doubt in who you are.
How Do You Write It?
A vision statement sets the stage for the rest of the foundation because once developed, the next step is crafting the mission and value statements. Think of the vision statement as the top or even widest part of a funnel. The statement must be broad and all encompassing. Is your company product focused, company focused, or community or worldwide focused? What do you want your company to accomplish or represent? These questions will get you on the path to hone in on a statement that showcases what your company is about. Below are basic suggestions to keep in mind:
- Keep It Simple
- Be Precise and Think Concise
- Use Descriptive Words
- Inspire Others
How Is It Applied In Business?
The vision statement is to be used in marketing such as on websites and printed materials like handouts regarding company programs as well as on letterhead. If it is simply written and not broadly adopted, it is of no use. “Owning it”, if you will, is an essential part of the process in acting on what and who you say you are as a company. As a side note, the same goes for business plans. If you take the time to write it and then never reference it again, it not only is a waste of time but also will create chaos in a company, especially as it grows.
From an internal perspective, when a team or a specific department is tasked with a role, it is key that they have a corporate vision statement as a reference point. This would not preclude them from developing another vision statement dedicated to their project or objective that spins off from the corporate vision statement. Keeping the vision statement posted in a visible area in different departments or especially in common areas lends a subtle reminder of the company’s essence.
It is important to note that the vision statement and the supporting mission and value statements of a company may change overtime. A review or assessment of one’s vision statement is key and a direct result of a shift in the industry that drives the company to enter new markets. It could also be because of environmental issues or as we are experiencing now in the current pandemic. Whatever the situation is, a company must review the vision statement on an annual basis to ensure its overall efficacy, that its offerings are aligned with current industry needs and trends.
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