Nearly fifteen years ago when I first began facilitating strategic planning sessions, a board member for one of my early clients vehemently challenged the need for a vision statement during the first day of the retreat. With a mission statement already in place he didn’t see the need for anything else.
I explained that the mission statement and vision statement, as well as other organizational drivers, play distinct and critical roles in the overall scheme of a company’s B+C+S Formula — Brand, Culture, and Strategy alignment.
While the mission answers the important question of “Why are we in business?” the vision sets the direction for “Where are we going?” A strong vision not only aids in forming a strong foundation to the company Brand it can also act as a strong motivator for all stakeholders within the Culture:
Inspire employees — Nike’s vision statement in the 1960’s was “Crush Adidas.” I believe the vision of Anheuser-Busch in the 1970’s was “Kill Miller.” We can certainly argue about the harsh nature of using the words “crush” and “kill” but the point is that there wasn’t much doubt in the minds of employees as to where these companies were headed. Plus, I’m sure these vision statements acted as rallying cries to many staff members of both organizations. A better example of inspiration for today may come from The Walt Disney Corporation in their vision “To make people happy.”
Focus management decisions — It’s easy to get caught up in minutia when making decisions these days. The vision is meant to create focus and define direction. Referring back to this statement during board and management meetings can do just that. I’m sure a strong company like Caterpillar has looked to their vision of being “the global leader in customer value” on several occasions when determining strategy for products and image.
Drive consumer behavior — Speaking of customers, they want to be associated with a winner just as much as the employees. They also want to be a part of companies that share their values. Some customers want to be green. Some customers want to be inspired. Some customers want to be empowered. Those that also want to be fit might gravitate to Curves with “To make it affordable and easy for women to be physically fit” or 24-Hour Fitness with “To make fitness a way of life.” If you can align your vision with the primary values of your target market, and communicate it properly, you’re on your way to building a powerful brand.
Given the increased number of challenges businesses and their leaders face today it’s become even easier to do exactly what the board member I mentioned above suggested: to ignore your vision. However, given the fast moving environment of this era, that vision is more important than ever before. Don’t ignore your vision. It may just make the difference that both you and your business need.