Mission & Vision: Differences and Similarities

Many companies believe they have a mission statement - but have actually formulated a vision. Or vice versa. Or they have mixed the two without quite realizing it. This happens in the best and largest companies. However, if the two statements are to be effective, they should be formulated and understood separately.

Mission statement vs. vision statement: What is the difference?

To understand what the difference between the two is, let's first deal with mission and vision separately.

Definition: What is a mission statement?

The mission is intended to show what purpose the company is pursuing and what perceptible contribution it is making to society and to individuals. This statement is primarily directed outward: Customers, suppliers and business partners learn more about the social benefits of the company and its core competencies.

The mission represents the current state of the company and stands for its raison d'être. It also expresses how it wants to achieve its major goals.

Examples of how international companies formulate their mission statement:

  • McDonald's: "Our mission is to make delicious feel-good moments easy for everyone."
  • Gucci: "The company's mission is to become the leader in luxury market at worldwide level."
  • Philips: "Philips' mission is to improve people's lives through meaningful and continuous innovation."
  • Agile Academy: "Make society more productive, more humane, and more sustainable."

A good mission statement is usually worded quite openly, so as not to limit the company's business or its ability to act. It is not meant to be changed on a regular basis, but rather represents more of an unshakeable identity that will accompany the company for years and decades to come.

Definition: What is a vision statement?

The vision statement represents the higher goals of the company. Where does it want to be in five to ten years? What paths will it take to achieve these goals? The vision is relevant both internally - for example, to motivate employees - and externally for customers, business partners and investors. With the vision statement, the company expresses a desired future state. It therefore does not have to correspond to the current self-image, but rather serves to inspire and motivate.

The vision stands for an ideal image of itself that the company will only achieve in the future, and thus for the major goals being pursued.

Examples of how international companies formulate their vision statement:

  • Gucci: "Gucci is reinventing a wholly modern approach to fashion. Under the new vision of creative director Alessandro Michele, the House has redefined luxury for the 21st century, further reinforcing its position as one of the world s most desirable fashion houses."
  • LinkedIn: "LinkedIn's vision is to create economic opportunity for every member of the global workforce."
  • Hilton Hotels: "Our Vision : To fill the earth with the light and warmth of hospitality - by delivering exceptional experiences - every hotel, every guest, every time."
  • Agile Academy: "Provide a premium and sustainable approach to leadership development for individuals and organizations that seek to become more agile, more innovative, and more customer centric."

The corporate vision addresses goals in the medium to long term. Typically, it covers a period of around five to ten years. It is not made for eternity, but should be revised again and again. If the company achieves its goals, it will set new ones - and anchor these in turn in the vision.

What is the difference between mission and vision?

The difference between mission and vision is based on alignment. While the mission statement communicates the benefits of the company, the vision focuses on the future and the goals to be achieved. The mission provides orientation, while the vision focuses on inspiration.

Ideally, you start with the mission and derive the vision from it. From the vision you come to the strategy. These things must be 100% compatible, otherwise it is neither authentic nor meaningful. Formulate both messages separately - and still make sure that they go hand in hand and complement each other. This already shows: it's difficult to distinguish them from each other completely exactly. And yet it is important. Because a tagline is not the same as a mission statement, and a description of the status quo can never serve as a source of inspiration. Moreover, you can also create a mission for your product, from which, in turn, the vision for your product development can be derived.

Marty Cagan of Silicon Valley Product Group (SVPG) puts it this way:

“One of the key purposes of the product vision is to provide the common ‘north star’ so that every product team, no matter what area they are working on, understands how their work contributes to the larger whole.”

The product vision should hover above everything like the brightly shining North Star and show all employees how their work contributes to the greater whole. At the same time, it provides orientation and inspires people to get even more out of their ideas.

Mission vs. vision vs. mission statement

Are you now wondering how this differs from your organization's mission statement? You could say that the concept of a mission statement goes further than that of a corporate vision or mission. It is the totality of your vision, your mission, and at the same time includes all the values that drive the company and its employees day by day.

Formulating a corporate vision and mission is essential to developing a mission statement that will guide your employees through a better everyday life as well as point the way to the future.

Why you need a product vision

Truly good products are based on the needs of their customers. Otherwise, they may completely miss the mark and consequently not be purchased. Successful products need a product vision - and for good reasons:

  • Understanding the customer's needs and consistently aligning product development with these goals.
  • Description of the nature, features and functions the product should deliver
  • Formulation of the company's goals to be met
  • Orientation through a grand vision that unites all employees of the company
  • Motivation through an achievable, common goal that a good corporate vision sets
  • Derivation of values, strategy and the purpose of the company, which together flow into a great mission statement
  • Inspiration through the corporate vision to develop special products with unique selling points
  • Influencing the company's strategy to achieve the goals it has set for itself

Marty Cagan sums it up:

“A good product vision shows us why this work is meaningful. A list of features on a roadmap is not meaningful. How you can positively impact the lives of users and customers is meaningful.”

Develop mission statement and vision statement: Here's what you should pay attention to

You should formulate the mission statement for your organization in a short yet meaningful way. It should convey enthusiasm, stand for your conviction and reach the reader on an emotional basis. The goal is to capture the identity of the entire organization in just a few words. In doing so, you do not remain superficial, but go into detail.

Wondering how to figure out what information the mission statement should convey? Ask yourself the following questions to find out more about your organization's mission:

  • What value does our organization bring to society and to each individual? This is less about creating material value (apart from non-profit organizations, we are all likely to have this goal) and more about the non-material value of the company.
  • What is our business model based on? What is the purpose of our company?
  • What is our strategy? What makes us stand out from other competitors? What is our approach?
  • Who are our customers? Who do we want to reach with our mission and products?

Once you have answered these questions, you can begin to describe your mission statement. You can do this by using the storytelling tricks of the trade, and you can also draw inspiration for the style from examples of well-known companies from around the world. Take your time developing your mission statement and create several variations. You may even want to talk to your employees about which statements best describe your brand's purpose. This way, you'll gradually develop your mission statement, which will play an important role for you in the decades to come.

As you note, it's important that both mission statement and vision must come "from the top." It is a typical founder's mission statement and should describe why the company was founded and how it contributes to the mission.

How to develop a vision statement?

To draft your vision statement, the first step is to have a clear idea of your personal vision. Again, specific questions will help you here:

  • What is our mission?
  • How can we get closer to our mission in the next 5 years or so?
  • In which subject area can we do something unique?
  • What goals are we pursuing with our strategy?
  • Is there a higher, ultimate purpose with which we can give back to the world?
  • How does our product impact the lives of our customers or other people? What role does it play for them?
  • How do we know at what point we have achieved these goals? Are they achievable and measurable?

In order to translate the target state of your company into a company vision, you can use a similar procedure as already described for the mission statement. The only difference is that you should get your employees on board to find out what the current state of the company is. Try to put your ideas into words, formulate several variants of your vision statement, and thus approach step by step the version that best reflects a clear vision.

Tip: Maybe you want to read our article about the Product Goal.

Common questions around mission and vision.

Can I combine mission and vision statements into one statement?

In principle, it is possible to combine your own vision and mission statements. To be more precise, it even makes sense to see if mission and vision complement each other. If the two cannot be linked, you have a contradiction in the creation of vision or mission, which you should eliminate as soon as possible.

Who is responsible for developing the company vision?

Ideally, the entrepreneur deals with his corporate vision himself and involves both managers and employees in the process - especially when it comes to selecting suitable drafts. However, agencies are often commissioned to do this.

What is the time horizon of a product or corporate vision?

The corporate vision usually refers to a time horizon of around five to ten years. A product vision can also be limited to shorter periods, such as two to five years, especially in short-lived industries.

How detailed should the vision and mission statements be?

Good examples show: On the one hand, the statements should not be too general, otherwise they will have little meaning. On the other hand, if they are too detailed, they restrict the company's ability to act and/or employees do not identify with the chosen strategy. Here you should find the healthy middle ground for the right vision.

How often do I need to revise the vision and mission?

The mission is long-term and can even last for decades, depending on the company. If the identity changes or the company's purpose undergoes a new direction, a revision is necessary. The vision statement should be formulated in such a way that it can last for several years.

Author

Photo of Sohrab Salimi

Sohrab Salimi

Scrum Academy GmbH

Sohrab is a long-standing Certified Scrum Trainer (CST) and CEO of the Scrum Academy GmbH based in Cologne. He is a trained medical doctor and worked for Bain & Company as a consultant and as a CIO at SE-Consulting, among others, before founding the Scrum Academy. As a consultant and trainer, he has been supporting companies from a wide range of industries for over a decade on topics related to agile transformation, innovation and organizational development.

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