Does it matter if you have a mission statement or a vision statement?

I never gave much thought to mission and vision statements. Probably because I’ve never had to come up with one.

What got me to thinking about them was Simon Sinek’s keynote address to the recent NAFA Fleet Management Association’s 2014 Institute & Expo. Sinek is a trained ethnographer and a bestselling author who teaches leaders and organizations how to inspire people. 

Ethnography is the study and systematic recording of human cultures. (I had to look it up.)

He maintains that success comes from an organization’s vision statement, not its mission statement.


Distinct functions

Basically, a mission statement states a company’s reason for its existence and describes what it does, who it does it for and how it does what it does.

A vision statement, on the other hand, provides a mental picture of what the company wants to achieve over time. Plus, it provides guidance, inspiration and value to its employees to help them recognize that their efforts are a valuable part of contributing towards accomplishing what the company is focused on achieving over the long term.

“We are no good with the abstract,” said Sinek. “The biology of our system is that we have to ‘see’ the goal or objective and that we are making progress. This is why metrics to measure progress are important.”

Mile markers are placed in races so runners can see their progress, he noted. If they didn’t know how they are doing it would be un-nerving.

“Knowing we are making progress keeps us focused on the goal. That’s why we have to have tangible goals. We are visually oriented. If we do not write down our goals we may not achieve.”

Consequently, it is important for organizations to have vision statements wherein employees “can see the destination,” he explained. Vision statements should be “the articulation of a world that does not yet exist and so specific that the rest of us can see it in our mind’s eye.”

What type of statement does your organization have: vision or mission?

Let me hear from you.