It never ceases to amaze me how many companies, even larger companies do not have a mission backed up with a vision or to make it more clear, are able to know the difference between a mission and a vision.
Talking to numerous business heads and other consulting companies in the last 12 months, I have even come to the conclusion that even among experts, the terminology vision differs from person to person. Some see mission as the here and now and vision what you want to achieve in the future.
We are in the boat of managers who say a mission statement is what your company wants to achieve and the vision is how you want to get there and more importantly still, how do you achieve continuity for your mission long term. “Visions should provide a sense of aspiration; they should stretch imagination. They should describe the state of the organization, across its functions, not rush to summary. Different parts of an organization may have different visions. “
I recently had a meeting with a small company specialised in the coffee industry. The idea behind their mission was to educate the general public that industry made coffee vs. freshly roasted coffee is qualitatively bad and also not healthy.
We understood the mission, however let us take the point of “educating the public” what exactly does this mean? What does this mean today? And more importantly what does this mean tomorrow? What happens when competition have similar coffee on the market? What does “education” mean?
It was clear after 5 minutes of conversation that a lot of thought had been done about the product itself and how to push these products mid-term but there was no vision. The ideas did not match up to the mission and there was no thought given to the continuity of the model, bringing a new idea into a saturated market and gaining a strategy to create good market placement not just short term but also long term.
I recently read an article written by Daniel W Rasmus in a magazine called Fast Company. He used Walt Disney as an example of defining visions and missions. During my time at my last company I took part in a management course where we delved into innovation management. In particular we analysed the Disney method, so I was surprised to read that even the Disney company had issues by matching its mission with its vision. Initially Disney’s mission was to “make people happy” it did not state how is wanted to make people happy. Now their mission is “to be the world’s leading producers and providers of entertainment and information. Using our portfolio or brands to differentiate our content, services and consumer products, we seek to develop the most creative, innovative and profitable entertainment experiences and related products in the world.”
Daniel writes “Disney obviously hired a strategic planning consultant to help them shape its mission statement to match the expectations of MBAs on Wall Street. I don’t think their current statement does anything to enhance their mission” he goes on to write “They may be more strategic and business sounding but do they still make people happy?” It is this happiness that was the initial USP of Disney, it is this that keeps Disney’s customers and not profitable, innovative entertainment experiences which can be short lived.
We like to help the companies we work together with to create a kind of road map for the mission statements that they have, try to keep the mission statements from becoming to generic and imply what you really want to achieve and then to sit down and create a plan of how to get to step one and how this mission could be fulfilled and achieve continuity in the face of competition and trends.
Going back to the coffee producers, the mission statement could be
“bringing stress free coffee to coffee drinkers worldwide.”
First of all, we have to understand what we really mean behind the statement. Stress free coffee in this respect was a coffee that was not bitter or sour which according to coffee aficionados is a trade mark of industrial roasted coffee regardless to brand. As a non-coffee drinker I cannot judge this however speaking to those in my environment who tended to give out more, I was told that this is often the case. The company had already given great thought into marketing campaigns and sales channels as to how they wanted to create a customer base and sell the product, all of which were thoroughly thought through. However, it was all in the 'here and now', perhaps a widening of the product portfolio but no clear vision what this mission means in the future.
So what could a vision look like? Remember just selling a bags of coffee may win over a number of clients who will stay true to your brand, but if you want to educate the public, if you want to disrupt the market with stress free coffee you need to think longer term than just achieving sales. An educator shares his or her experience and knowledge, in this case, sharing experience with the coffee world. The vision could be to create a long term brand strategy that offers the public world-wide online expert coffee advice, special coffee tasting events linked with cultural programs, perhaps even experiences where coffee drinkers can visit the fair trade plantations and experience first-hand, seeing the love and care taken into the development of the coffee brand. Online expert information about coffee heritage, roasting methods etc. small exclusive stores, democratising coffee allowing people to have the option about creating their own blends, partnerships with small likeminded thinking companies in machinery allowing the consumer to roast your beans with your machine.
The point I am trying to make here is that the possibilities you can create when envisioning the future are endless. In my next blog, I intend to give tips about creating visions or ideas to support mission statements. This does not however mean that a vision has to be without a good portion of common sense. It you have a vision for 10 years down the road but are not sure how to get there, it is important taking time to think about what things you will need to do to get the correct knowledge on board and which steps will have to be taken financially, over networks, courses etc. in order for the future ideas to be implemented
Creating a vision is taking the focus off of the product development for a minute and thinking about how to expand the USPs or the basis for the USPs in 3, 5 and 10 years’ time.
Some of you reading this blog may say, I have already achieved my mission, but that does not mean that you will sustainably hold this mission. “you may be the leader, but if you want to stay one, shouldn’t you restate it as part of your vision?”
Let us come back to the Disney point: ”In fact, there was a time when Disney kind of lost its collective soul, in the early to mid-1980s when box office share dwindled to less than 4% and it turned down films like Raiders of the Lost Ark and ET—and was the target of investment raiders. Theme parks became real estate and their movies uninspired. Poor management was reflected in a poor understanding of vision and mission. Happy people were no longer center stage. The bottom line on vision, then, is to recognize the complexities of the business and create visions for areas that are meaningful to internal and external constituencies, and make sure these visions are consistent with the mission.”
Summarising, a mission is what you want to achieve, the vision is the road map and the long term strategy of how to keep on achieving that in years to come. However, there is one more point which needs to be made at this point. Visions may change over the years according to trends, market requirements or even how you do business. Therefore, as we grow and our organisation changes, we need to keep our eyes on the visions and making adaptations where necessary. We all need to be open to ideas and thoughts of others, we need to be and stay flexible in striving to achieve our missions and it is this flexibility of adapting the visionary roadmap that will help you as a company retain your position in an exciting and challenging market place.
Author Andrew Lawrence