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Nov, 01 2007

Vision, Mission and Goals

Vision, mission and goals may seem like the `soft-stuff` of business, but as seasoned business owners know, these intangible elements play a very important role in the success or failure of a business

Vision, mission and goals are very common jargons which are too often used in corporate discourses on small, mid and large organisations. But, what actually do they signify?

Not much if it is an organisation run single-handedly, in which case vision, mission and goals always become very personal issues. In such a situation these subjects will be at an individual`s discretion, since he/she is the sole person to decide where he is going to take his/her business and how he/she is going to reach there. No one will be there to intervene.

But as soon as you hire your first employee, these words take a very significant meaning. That is because employees are not privy to what is there in the entrepreneur`s mind, unless you open up to them. You must let them into what you have planned by overtly apprising them of your vision, mission and goals.

Always, vision, mission and goals need to be shared. Every staff of a company should be motivated to nurture the vision and mission of the company and to steadfastly pursue the goals. It is better if everyone from bottom to the top of the pyramid is chasing a common dream, treading down a common road with common objectives. Following are some facts on U.S. businesses state in this regard:

• Companies whose employees understand the mission and goals enjoy a 29 per cent greater return than other firms (Watson Wyatt Work Study)

• U.S. workers want their work to make a difference, but 75 per cent do not think their company`s mission statement has become the way they do business (Workplace 2000 Employee Insight Survey)

Vision

This vision or the dream should keep on ticking in the mind of the employees. They need to know what business are they in. They should have the clear ideas about what is possible and where they are committed. They should know where the destination lies.

The vision statement is the description of the dream for your business. Business vision is a short, brief, and inspiring statement of what the organisation intends to become and to achieve at some point in the future, often stated in competitive terms. Vision refers to the category of intentions that are broad, all-inclusive and forward-thinking. It is the image that a business must have of its goals before it sets out to reach them. It describes aspirations for the future, without specifying the means that will be used to achieve those desired ends.

A vision should resonate with all members of the organisation and help them feel proud, excited, and part of something much bigger than themselves. A vision should stretch the organisation`s capabilities and image of itself.

Unlike goals, but similar to a mission, vision has no deadline – without `by when`. It can be as precise as the response to the question "Where are we heading this year?" or as lofty as "If we could develop exactly the kind of company we wanted, what it would be like?"

Do visions change?

Yes, only to a certain extent, with a change in business environment. Make sure you keep stretch in your vision, communicate it constantly, and keep linking the events of today to your vision, highlighting the relationship between the two.

It should not be changed too often though, because both entrepreneur and his employees need some degree of consistency. Change is not an aphrodisiac which goes well with employees.

Some sample vision statements

At General Electric (GE) the corporate vision is “We bring good things to life”.

The Ford Motor Company`s vision is “To become the world`s leading consumer company for automotive products and services”.

Mission

The mission statement describes how this dream is going to become a reality. Mission gives a direction to an entrepreneur`s vision. The mission statement is a public affirmation of what the company is, not only for employees to know but also for the rest of the world.

A mission statement is an organisation`s vision translated into written form. It makes concrete the leader`s view of the direction and purpose of the organisation. For many corporate leaders, it is a vital element in an attempt to motivate employees and to give them a sense of priorities.

It is a short, sound-bite, paragraph or two describing what the company is, why it is in business and what makes it different from the rest. It is a precise description of what an organisation does. It should describe the business the organisation is in. It is a definition of “why” the organisation exists currently. Each member of an organisation should be able to verbally express this mission.

The purpose of an organisation`s mission is the answer to the question `why?` Different questions will elicit different facets or flavours of mission. For example:

• Why are we doing this? It brings out purpose, motives, and intention of a business activity.

• What is vitally important about our work? It begins to identify the values and interests that drive the organisation.

• With what aspects of this work do I most identify? Is there a cause or purpose – the bigger picture – beyond the work itself? What is our unique role? How do we `make a difference`? For whom? How will we benefit? Who else benefits?

In a way, a mission is the motivational aspect of vision: it defines and clarifies "why does the vision matter?" and implies a set of governing values or principles. An effective mission statement is best developed with inputs by all the members of an organisation. The best mission statements tend to be 3-4 sentences long and should be included in the executive summary of any business plan.

A mission or purpose statement defines why it all matters to employees, contractors, partners, and management – the internal `customers.` As a mission reflects human motivation, hopefully it helps people feel good, maybe even to feel inspired, about it.

Do missions change?

It must be kept current and alive; check to see if your mission, once defined and written, still holds true 6 - 12 months later. Missions will change as priorities and business conditions change, after mergers or acquisitions, or other significant transitions.

Noteworthy examples of mission statement

A good example of service mission statement of Wal-Mart is "To give ordinary folks the chance to buy the same thing as rich people." And a more aggressive one by Honda - "We will crush, squash, and slaughter Yamaha".

Vision, Mission statements benefits

The benefits of both a clear vision and mission statements will be realised if they

• Speak about the organisation`s present condition (including a `healthy stretch` toward a desired future),

• Are written clearly in plain English, and

• Are accompanied by grounded action that brings the intentions to life, and does the work as the statements are put to use.

Goals

We talk specifics here. Goals are specific and realistic objectives that relate to specific time periods and are stated in terms of facts. Specific goals for a company can be associated with several aspects such as financial, market share, products, customers, etc. The achievement of these specific, companywide goals will result from the achievement of specific departmental and/ or team goals, which in turn will come from achievement of individual goals.

Long-range goals set through strategic planning are translated into activities that will ensure reaching the goal through operational planning.

Goals and action plans usually flow from each strategy. Goals should be designed around SMART format, i.e., specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-based. An individual spending a minute over planning their goals, activities and time in advance, saves ten minutes of work in the execution of those plans.

Concluding factors

To build a building, masons need bricks and mortar. To realise the dream or vision of an organisation, the promoters and staff of the organisation require well-planned mission and goal. Success of a company comes with these three paramount factors. It can be best exemplified by the statement – If you add the fulfilment of company, departmental and individual goals together and what do you have? A mission accomplished and a vision achieved.

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