What, exactly, is the value of a vision statement? After all, not every successful business has a great vision statement. Right? Well …
Granted, Apple doesn’t have a very good vision statement and they do okay for themselves. But they’re Apple; their vision statement could be “We want to eventually bomb Mars” and we’d still be clamoring for the next iPhone. The rest of us should consider that vision statements are a great tool to guide strategic thinking, inspire and align your community, and track progress. They can be invaluable to your strategic HR efforts now and (just as importantly) the future. After all, they are a declaration of your goals and aspirations as a company. With that in mind, here are five things to consider when you create your vision statement:
1. Separate vision statements from mission statements. The difference between the two is simple. Mission statements explain the present: why a company came into being and what it does. Vision statements, on the other hand, look forward to the future: where a company is going and how it intends to get there. Think of having separate mission and vision statements like having different tools to help you navigate a dark forest: one is a flashlight and one is a compass. The flashlight (mission statement) illuminates your current line of site while the compass (vision statement) shows you the way to your desired destination. If your company has big plans for the future, make sure that both your mission and vision are properly documented.
2. Involve all the right people. Your vision statement will impact the whole company, so make sure to involve all the right players. Make sure to include the executive team—not just to get approvals but also to get their insights and … well, vision. Also, include the marketing team. They’ll know how to frame and phrase the vision statement in just the right way. In addition, if you involve marketing, they will be much more inclined to make sure all marketing efforts are in line with the company’s long-term vision. Depending on your business, there are probably a few others you will want to include in the process of creating a vision statement. Just make sure to know who those people are and then collaborate with them.
3. Make sure it is true. Are you really going to change the world? If so, put that in your vision statement. But if you’re not, saying so can make the whole exercise useless. When people read your vision statement it needs to make sense. The message needs to appear genuine and match everything else they’ve experienced with your brand. If you’re unsure where your company is going, take your time creating a vision statement and use this as an opportunity to plan towards the future.
4. Make sure it isn’t complicated. So, what are you really saying? Get to the absolute root of it. Your vision statement needs to clearly and effectively speak to your audience and it needs to avoid jargon or generic business-talk. For example, if your vision is a world free of Multiple Sclerosis, have your vision statement be “A world free of MS.” Don’t make it “we want to thoughtfully and meticulously eradicate the effects of MS on the many people affected by it until it is no longer a threat to the citizenry of the world.” Yikes. Also, your vision statement needs to quickly resonate with the people you are recruiting to join your team. A candidate should hear the vision statement and—assuming they’re a culture fit—want to be a part of the journey meet that vision. When you follow up with candidates, feel free to get their feedback on your vision statement to find out what they like and dislike about it and also to identify potential ambiguities.
5. Make sure it guides your strategy. Your vision statement should be a signpost that directs your activities. It should help you determine the value of new programs and initiatives when you strategize. And when you are tracking the effectiveness of different activities, you should reference your vision statement to know how valuable those activities were. For example, consider Amazon’s visions statement: “We seek to be Earth’s most customer-centric company for four primary customer sets: consumers, sellers, enterprises, and content creators.” This vision statement almost feels like the subtext of every business decision they make, right? They could easily track the effectiveness of their work based on how well they are satisfying customers in those four areas. As you prepare your vision statement, make sure it is equally useful.