The Difference Between Mission and Vision

Everyone tries to “wordsmith” these two words to impress everyone else when in reality it is quite simple. The vision is to SEE, the mission is to DO. Then the Goals are written to state what is to be ACCOMPLISHED, the objectives are written as micro steps to show in a MAP form how the goal(s) will be accomplished and the action plans are specific steps showing how each objective will hold everyone ACCOUNTABLE in terms of dates, times, budgets, risk managements, personnel, etc.

Example. Chick-fil-A. We didn’t make the chicken, just the chicken sandwich.”
Great Vision Statement.

The Vision is the noun. The Mission is the verb. The Vision is the picture. The Mission is the yellow brick road that leads you to the Vision. It’s what you have to do to get there.

Vision – what we aspire to do
Mission – A high-level approach statement of how we’ll make the vision real.

Cisco’s Vision = Changing the way we work, live, play and learn
Cisco’s Mission = Shape the future of the internet by creating unprecedented value and opportunities for our customers, partners, employees, investors and ecosystem partners

Mission (transitive verb and/or adjective) as defined in the dictionary:

– a pre-established and often self-imposed objective or purpose

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    I think the distinction between “Vision” and “Mission” is critical in any enterprise, business or otherwise. Far too often the two concepts get collapsed into each other and worse, are considered just clichés of organizational theory. It’s paramount to the success of any business that Leadership ensure that the two concepts are clearly and distinctly articulated in the organization and not allowed to parish hanging on a wall somewhere unnoticed.

    For me, the distinction is temporal. “Vision” is how you want to be known as an organization sometime out in the future. It’s how you will be occurring to the world and how people to speak about you in the future. As such, Vision is something to be lived into, something to move towards and by definition, never reached. For once you reach the destination of any particular Vision, you should be on your way to another.

    “Mission” on the other hand is about what you are up to today as an organization. What you do, how you do it, why you do it and who you do it for. It’s the measure by which you know you are being who you say you are today in the world and it is the current means to the Vision you have set for yourself as an organization. It’s a measure integrity and clarity.

    So defined, “Vision” and “Mission” are living concepts, ever changing and adapting to the world in which the organization exists. As such, it is the responsibility and obligation of Leadership to keep them both alive inside of the organization, current with the present state of affairs and the future aspiration for the enterprise. And they live in “conversation”, not in some elegant business plan or wall hanging. Leadership needs to drive the conversation of Vision and Mission and keep them relevant to the entire organization. For you have to know where you are headed AND you have to know where you are at all times . . . . everyone in an organization does, if it is to be successful.

    My Thoughts

    Patrick Johnson – Vision Driven Leader


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