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What’s the difference between Mission and Vision?

What’s the difference between Mission and Vision?

This is a question that comes up a lot in the work I do with business teams as I coach them to be mission driven on a day to day basis. Why be mission driven? So they never lose sight of their greater purpose for existing in the first place.

Without the unwavering focus on mission and vision it’s much too easy to get mired in the day to day routine — which businesses are chock full of.

Without mission and vision, businesses are boring.

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At times I run across companies which don’t bother to distinguish them at all: They have a separate Values Statement (thank goodness), but if you ask them to tell you of their Vision, and then of their Mission, they’ll give you the same answer for both questions. So what is the difference? Does it matter?

The short answer is that it only matters if you use them. Vision Statements and Mission Statements can be power-packed drivers in a company culture when they are done right, and when they are used to release the potent energy within the people who make up that company. (Don’t for a moment think that companies are made up of anything else.) The best missions and visions become mantras for action; they’re catalysts. The worst ones are those pretty, carefully crafted ones up on the walls in frames that are long and detailed: too much to memorize and remember, too much to bother with at all. No one pays attention to them, and no one lives them. Rotate them with famous quotations or snippets from eloquent speeches and no one will even notice, because none of the real people in the company say those things.

That old guideline that a mission describes “what business you’re in and who your customer is” barely gets anyone up in the morning. Ho hum. Keep the trees in the ground, for it’s not worth wasting the paper you draft it on.

You don’t need your mission or your vision to state the obvious; you want them to state the exceptional and extraordinary, to boast of your edge-teetering leaps of faith, and the wild dreamings of every possibility you want explored every single day. You need them to create chatter, thrilled whispers, passionate debate and evangelism. You want people inside and outside your organization to talk about them constantly because they’re fascinating, enticing, and enthralling. You couldn’t possibly contain their passion on the company bulletin board if you tried.

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Let them be controversial. Let them beg discussion and explanation. They should answer these better questions: How will we make a difference every single day, improving the quality of life itself? How can we work on only what really matters to us, and to everyone? Why is it that this world can’t possibly be a great place without the magic we work? Why is it that we are so special, so damned good, and so fanatically courageous? Put unbusiness-like words in them, like Beauty. Uprising. Character. Notoriety. Caring. Wear your values on your sleeve and speak them.

So what’s the difference? As simply as I can say it, your mission is what you do best every day, and your vision is what the future looks like because you do that mission so exceedingly well. In fact, I like to compare them to another old debate: management versus leadership.

For MISSION —– think: managing with greatness and untamed strength, improving everything daily.

For VISION —– think: leading with inspiration and courage, obsessed with future possibility, in a love affair with change.

MISSION will feed into the confidence of your organization by feeding this ever-present self-talk: “We can do this, and we are the ones ordained to do this, for we are the best at it.” Mission will churn out revolutionary ideas about the mundane, banishing mediocrity.

VISION creates that momentum of growing anticipation about the future, where change is embraced as a step closer to that very compelling picture of what’s coming next. The excitement about the future trumps any apprehension about the uncertain — change is recognized as the catalytic converter it is.

Turn them both into mantras that people actually say, beaming with pride as they say them. “This is my company, and I’m glad it is” is the emotion they evoke, shining in everyone’s eyes. Both mission and vision are alive; both evolve, both reinvent, both grow as you grow.

So tear down that plaque on the wall; you really don’t need it. Trumpet the voices of mission and vision instead.

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Thank you for reading, I’ll be back next Thursday. On every other day, you can visit me on Talking Story, or on www.ManagingWithAloha.com. Aloha!

Rosa Say

Previous Thursday Column: On Ho‘ohiki: Keeping your promises.

Managing with Aloha, Bringing Hawaii’s Universal Values to the Art of Business

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More by this author

Rosa Say

Rosa is an author and blogger who dedicates to helping people thrive in the work and live with purpose.

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Last Updated on October 15, 2019

How to Plan Your Life Goals and Actually Achieve Them in 7 Simple Steps

How to Plan Your Life Goals and Actually Achieve Them in 7 Simple Steps

Where do you want to be 5 years from now, 10 years from now, or even this time next year? These places are your goal destinations and although you might know that you don’t want to be standing still in the same place as you are now, it’s not always easy to identify what your real goals are.

Many people think that setting a goal destination is having a dream that is there in the far distant future but will never be attained. This proves to be a self-fulfilling prophesy because of two things:

Firstly, that the goal isn’t specifically defined enough in the first place; and secondly, it remains a remote dream waiting for action which is never taken.

Defining your goal destination is something that you need to take some time to think carefully about. The following steps on how to plan your life goals should get you started on a journey to your destination:

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1. Make a list of your goal destinations

Goal destinations are the things that are important to you. Another word for them would be ambitions, but ambitions sound like something which outside of your grasp, whereas goal destinations are certainly achievable if you are willing to put in the effort working towards them.

So what do you really want to do with your life? What are the main things that you would like to accomplish with your life? What is it that you would really regret not doing if you suddenly found you had a limited amount of time left on the earth?

Each of these things is a goal. Define each goal destination in one sentence.

If any of these goals is a stepping stone to another one of the goals, take it off this list as it isn’t a goal destination.

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2. Think about the time frame to have the goal accomplished

This is where the 5 year, 10 year, next year plan comes into it.

Some goals will have a “shelf life” because of age, health, finance, etc, whereas others will be up to you as to when you would like to achieve them by.

3. Write down your goals clearly

Write each goal destination at the top of a new piece of paper.

For each goal, write down what is it that you need and don’t have now that will allow you achieve that goal. This could be some kind of education, career change, finance, a new skill, etc. Any “stepping stone” goals you removed will fit into this exercise. If any of these smaller “goals” have sub-goals, go through the same process with these so that you have precise action points to work with.

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4. Write down what you need to do for each goal

Under each item listed, write down the things that you will need to do in order to complete each of the steps required to complete the goal. 

These items will become a check-list. They are a tangible way of checking how you are progressing towards reaching your goal destinations. A record of your success!

5. Write down your timeframe with specific and realistic dates

Using the time frames you created, on each goal destination sheet write down the year in which you will complete the goal by.

For any goal which has no fixed completion date, think about when you would like to have accomplished it by and use that as your destination date.

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Work within the time frames for each goal destination, make a note of realistic dates by which you will complete each of the small steps.

6. Schedule your to-dos

Now take an overview of all your goal destinations and make a schedule of what you need to do this week, this month, this year – in order to progress along the road towards your goal destinations.

Write these action points on a schedule so that you have definite dates on which to do things.

7. Review your progress

At the end of the year, review what you have done this year, mark things off the check-lists for each goal destination and write up the schedule with the action points you need for the next year.

Although it may take you several years to, for example, get the promotion you desire because you first need to get the MBA which means getting a job with more money to allow you to finance a part-time degree course, you will ultimately be successful in achieving your goal destination because you have planned out not only what you want, but how to get it, and have been pro-active towards achieving it.

Featured photo credit: Debby Hudson via unsplash.com

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