Appy, a male elephant with the name synonymous to happiness and his twin Proppy, a female elephant, a name synonymous to prosperity had left their lumber yard early in the day and took a walk to the peak of the hillock it was situated on. At a distance, they could see the city with all its swanky offices and high-rises. One of the buildings reflected the rising sun. It looked like an orange was climbing up the building.
“I have a vision. We will make a living by onboarding 10,000 customers a year”, declared Proppy.
Appy who was concentrating on the walk looked up and said, “That’s good. But doing what? What is your life’s mission to get there?”
“I would like to onboard 10,000 customers a year. Not sure how”, Proppy said with her eyebrows raised.
“You must do something to attain that many customers. Firstly, What is the offer to your customer, is it a service/product. You must have a concrete mission statement so that you know what you are selling. Your VISION is to get to 10,000 customers as a result of selling that service/product.” said Appy.
“Okay”, Proppy turned to him as she closed the magazine. “How does it matter as these two sounds the same, even though they serve different purposes and are often confused with each other.”
Appy lifting his hands in the air, and said, “VISION may describe what/where a company wants to be in the future, MISSION describes what a company wants to do now. What a company wants to do now is more important.”
“But what difference does it make? Potato potato…”, Proppy said. It was clear from her facial expression that she was still confused. She was of the opinion that a longtime goal is more important than what companies or individuals did in the present. According to her, Vision comes first, then Mission.
“There is a huge difference,” came back Appy. They have different, but important parts to play for your organization for sure. While a vision statement declares where your company wants to be in the future, a mission statement defines why your business exists and that is why it is important.”
Proppy moved closer to her twin asking to explain it further.
Distinction Between Vision and Mission
“Vision statements are framed in an aspirational, forward-thinking manner. It should be creative, ambitious, and have a logical connection to what an organization does. This is a destination based on your mission. These vision statements help organizations make strategic decisions, aligning effort with goals.”
Appy cupped his hands as if that would drive home the point. He said, “At the same time, mission statements explain an organization’s actions for the present based on what it wants to achieve. The mission can be long, short, measurable, or non-measurable based on the industry. It should be unique and realistic.”
Appy and Proppy always loved it. They loved it every time when they were in conversation with each other and with their mentor, Lucky. They never really cared about the subject as long as they talked. But they especially love it when their conversations enlighten them with a new piece of information or learning.
That transition from ignorance to knowledge! The mutual ride to ignorance to informational bliss land was always a pleasurable one.
“Okay, listen. My mission is to serve tasty food by starting a restaurant business and make it a sustainable business. Did that come out right?” asked Proppy.
“That is correct,” smiled and said Appy. And Proppy continued “My vision is to have a hunger-free world in the next 40 years.”
Appy responded with an applaud while Proppy continued after a pause “Vision statements can have both an external and internal focus, guiding employee efforts and strategic decision making, as well as broadcasting your company’s grandest ambitions.”
Appy turned to Proppy and said, “Mission statements, on the other hand, are more externally focused, telling the world why the company exists.”
By then, the twin elephants had realized that mission and vision are two sides of the same coin.
Vision & Mission Are Complementary
“True that”, Proppy said. “In some cases, organizations use their own, slightly different definitions of mission and vision. But these statements will always have the company’s vision of a better future and language around what differentiates it from competitors. This is a critical first step to defining your strategy”.
“But, tell me one thing, dear Appy. What are the qualities of mission and vision statements?
“Hmm… That is a good question. But I think Lucky would have been the best person to answer it.” said Appy.
The twins came in a range of a cellphone tower. They took the opportunity to call their mentor Lucky and explain their discussion and understating of Mission & Vision. Lucky was glad the elephants called him as he too was in a mood for a knowledge sharing session. As he very well knew that he is going to learn too.
He began, “Even though mission and vision are distinctly different, they both should have certain qualities in common. They should inform strategic planning, align with company values, highlight what is unique about the organization, and inspire while still being achievable.”
“In that case, which one should be created first? Vision or Mission statement?” wondered Appy.
Lucky said, “As far as timing is concerned, these two are the first step in defining your business strategy and they can be developed in two ways – in tandem or lead with your mission statement. However, I would recommend the second if you are unclear about the offer.
Because, people make a common mistake of creating a vision statement that is too open and idealistic, making it unachievable. But if you start with your mission, it will give you a more realistic anchor point for your ideal future state.”
Vision For Inspiration & Mission For Aspiration
“Okay. This means, while the vision statement will be an inspiration source for a company, the mission statement defines its purpose and desired level of performance. The mission of a company must be short and readable. But the vision must paint a picture of the company’s future, how they will impact their industry and society,” said Proppy.
Lucky continued after appreciating Proppy, “Thinking of and writing two statements may be daunting. A company can start with a mission statement. Once there is clarity around your mission, then you are ready to write the vision statement. But for some, Vision inspires them more so they can start with a vision statement followed by a mission statement and then revisit them to sharpen it.” The twins sounded happy as they got clarity about the whole picture.
“That’s more like it”, answered Lucky. “The mission statement must reflect every aspect of the company. It is the core purpose of the business and this is what stakeholders like investors, employees, creditors, suppliers, and customers engage for. The vision statement specifies the company’s future goals and values, this is what the stakeholders enroll in.”
“Does it mean that the mission statement may change with time, but the vision statement does not change and remains constant until the company is active?” asked Appy.
“Both can change if you want. They are not etched on stone. They are meant to be strategic tools.” said Lucky and continued, “however, the frequency of change is expected to be less for the vision statement”.
The sun was up. They decided to go back before it got hot. The elephants started hiking back hoping that the cell phone signal would stay. The weather was still pleasant. They ate some sugarcane on their way back.
“Shall we play a game as while you two hike back?” asked Lucky.
“What game is it?”, Proppy asked happily.
“I will tell one key difference between mission and vision. You two should tell another difference once I am done. Ready?”
“I am born ready”, Appy was all excited.
“Okay, here is the first one. While the vision statement discusses the desired position of the business in the future, the mission statement talks about the company’s business, purpose, and approach to pursuing them. Your turn”, Lucky turned it over to Appy & Proppy.
“Even though the vision statement remains the same for a longer timeframe, the mission statement may change if required by the company”, Appy was the first one to answer.
“While the vision statement is made to inspire, the mission statement is made to inform”, saying this, Lucky inquisitively looked at the screen.
“Okay, here it goes. The mission statement explains the company’s core purpose whereas the vision statement shows the company’s future aspirations”, it was Proppy to answer this time.
“Very good”, the proud mentor said. Proppy quickly responded, “if you have liked it, then I should post this on FaceBook. I am sure I will earn more likes”.
“You know, big companies and enterprises are crazy about crafting the relevant mission statements. At the same time, they have long term visions that enable them to grow every year”, said Lucky.
“Can you give me an example of one such enterprise that I could relate easily?” asked Proppy.
Corporate Examples for Vision & Mission
“Okay, let me think,” Lucky stopped to think while the twins continued to walk down. Lucky looked up and said, “Oh yeah… The mission statement of Facebook is ‘to give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together’. And the vision statement is ‘People use Facebook to stay connected with friends and family, to discover what’s going on in the world, and to share and express what matters to them.’ ”
“Explain please”, Appy asked with a confused look.
“The mission of Facebook is focused on the community, its platform promises. At the same time, their vision is all about why community matters, interweaving how they will bring the world closer together from the mission. Got it?” Lucky asked just to make sure his protege understood.
“One more example?”, asked Proppy.
“Here is the other one. The mission statement of Google is, ‘to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.’, while their vision statement is, ‘provide an important service to the world-instantly delivering relevant information on virtually any topic’.”
“Hmm…”, Appy rolled his eyes thinking.
“Google makes it clear that organizing information, making it accessible and useful are what they offer. And at the same time, their vision statement is about improving accessibility in the future instantly everywhere in the world on any topic,” Proppy explained taking over from Lucky.
“Wow. The vision and mission of Facebook and Google are so relevant. I can see how mission and vision are making sense in these two cases and am able to relate easily,” Appy said.
“This shows how successful these companies are. Both mission and vision are essential for the survival and growth of a company and are closely interrelated. The vision should be kept in mind while developing the mission,” Lucky said.
“Doesn’t it mean that the vision is the effect and the mission is its cause”? Proppy asked.
“Of course, we can say that. While the vision statement is predictive, the mission statement is a sort of representative one. And most importantly, both statements must be clear, complete, and correct in every aspect as the whole future of the company depends on these two,” Lucky concluded his final statement smilingly.
The elephants nodded. It was evident that they were immersed in various thoughts. Their mind was wandering around, searching for the perfect mission and vision statement for their company.
“I understand what you are thinking”, Lucky said realizing what was in their mind. “Before I leave, I would like to quote Che Guevara. He once said, ‘We cannot be sure of having something to live for unless we are willing to die for it’. You do not have to give up your life for your business. Be ready to give it all for your company’s vision and mission. That is all that matters. You will conquer the world, I know.”
The twins smiled at each other and they continued their hike back home.