In this article I will explain how to write a vision statement. You want to write one of these for its practical purposes of communicating your vision, but also because it is great content to put on all of your social sites, website, brochures, and products.
Two Main Components of a Vision Statement
James Collins and Jerry Porras wrote an article in the Harvard Business Review about what should constitute a company vision. They assert that “A well-conceived vision consists of two major components: core ideology and envisioned future.” The core ideology is that which never changes and consists of the values and purpose of the company, even 100 years from now. The envisioned future is the lofty, very aggressive and dreamy goal the company wishes to obtain in the next 20 to 30 years. Something that hasn’t been done before by you, your company, or even mankind. It truly is up to you, but it should inspire.
Make Your Vision Statement Easy to Identify
Many companies have mission statements that look like vision statements. Others have vision statements that don’t necessarily call them formally a “vision statement”, they just talk about what they want to do in the “About Us” section of their website. Other companies have a formal mission statement that is separate from a formal vision statement. The purpose of any statement is to communicate effectively. Therefore, I think it is essential to call your vision what it is – a Vision Statement. That way your employees, your customers, your investors, and your supporters can rally behind and easily find the company’s vision.
Make it Easy to Understand
The vision needs to be in layman’s terms so that the lowest ranking person in the organization can understand it. Napoleon, before he would give written orders, would have a corporal read the letter first to make sure it could be understood by all. The same principle applies to companies and organizations. Don’t use industry specific language that no one understands and don’t use big words you have to look up in a dictionary.
Your Vision Should Short and Sweet
You want people to read your vision statement. You want them to remember it. You want them to understand it. Clearly, in this case, less is more. 1-2 sentences is ideal.
Vision Statement Examples
Below are a few examples of some formally declared and not so formally declared vision statements of some prominent companies.
“Every person has the opportunity to achieve his/her fullest potential and participate in and contribute to all aspects of life.”
The core values here are implied – to empower people to contribute and reach their full potential. Yet, the vision is that Goodwill wants this for everyone, not just those within their organization or under their immediate influence.
This may or may not be obtainable by one company, but it does a good job articulating a vision. This Vision Statement is clearly identified, easy to understand, and is short and sweet.
“A computer on every desktop and in every home”.
A quick analysis of this vision today, as I write this article from my personal computer, brings me to say that this was a good vision statement. It had a lofty goal and here we are almost 40 years later in the age of mobile phones, wearable computing devices, and tablets. The desktop computer is all but obsolete with laptops and mobile devices now being the primary device in households. So Microsoft is finding itself having to update its vision statement. I would critique this statement by saying that it did lack some core values. It was all goal, yet no values. But this is better than all values, no goal. After all, a vision statement is looking toward the future, and Microsoft accomplished its vision. We just want to make sure we stand for something along the way.
“Global diversity and inclusion is an integral and inherent part of our culture, fueling our business growth while allowing us to attract, develop, and retain this best talent, to be more innovative in the products and services we develop, in the way we solve problems, and in the way we serve the needs of an increasingly global and diverse customer and partner base.”
Microsoft had to update its vision statement from the Bill Gates days. Here we see a vision statement that is very long, less clear, and more values-based. They are talking about innovation, yet there is no innovative goal (like a computer on every desk). It is easy to say you are going to be innovative, it is another to have innovation. This vision statement I think is horrible. It is too much of the how and why, and not enough of the “what”. It is too long. It is not easy to understand. This is probably a reason why Microsoft has not been at the forefront of much in the last several years. Apple, Samsung, Amazon, and Google are overtaking them in the technology space. Without a good vision, a company will fail.
“Our vision is to be Earth’s most customer centric company; to build a place where people can come to find and discover anything they might want to buy online.”
This is an excellent vision statement. It is clearly identified as a vision – “our vision”. It has the core values of being the “Earth’s most customer centric company”, yet it has the lofty goal selling everything online that people may want to buy. Amazon is moving closer toward that goal. People can go on Amazon and buy virtually everything they could possibly want, minus a few niche or novelty items. This is a great vision statement, in my opinion.
“Macy’s, Inc. is a premier national omnichannel retailer with iconic brands that serve customers through outstanding stores and dynamic online sites. Both Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s are known worldwide, and each has its own unique identity and customer focus.”
First thought that comes to mind – what the heck is an “onmichannel retailer”. Sure we can guess, but not being in the retail space this is a term that isn’t well known by many people. Wikipedia describes it as such: “Omni-Channel Retailing is the evolution of multi-channel retailing, but is concentrated more on a seamless approach to the consumer experience through all available shopping channels, i.e. mobile internet devices, computers, brick-and-mortar, television, radio, direct mail, catalog and so on.”
So back to my original point. Macy’s should not use this type of language. They should dumb it down a little for the average person to understand.
This vision is also too much of the how – it doesn’t include the what. It doesn’t really say what they want to be 30 years from now – the lofty dreamy goal. It almost seems like they are soft-balling their vision for fear of failure. They are already a global brand that is unique and known worldwide – mission accomplished. It is time to update it into something more visionary. They did do a good job communicating their core principles, however.
“Our vision is to be the most trusted provider of systems and technologies that ensure the security and freedom of our nation and its allies. As the technology leader, we will define the future of defense—from undersea to outer space, and in cyberspace.
We will —
- Conduct ourselves with integrity and live our Company Values
- Deliver superior program performance
- Foster an internal environment of innovation, collaboration, and trust
In so doing, Northrop Grumman will become our customers’ partner of choice, our industry’s employer of choice, and our shareholders’ investment of choice.”
This vision statement is a little long, but it does communicate values and goals very nicely. Being a defense technology leader and ensuring the security and freedom of America is not small task – it is a worthy goal. Heck, they even talk about under the ocean, outer space, and cyberspace. This is some pretty lofty stuff – and sounds like they are doing a good job attaining it with all their national defense contracts. This is a good vision statement even if it is a little long. I would shorten it a little to 3 sentences, and move the rest to a values statement or some other statement.
In Summary – Vision Statement Essentials
In summary, writing a vision statement is not very hard. It is up to you. I leave you with the following points:
- Keep it short – 1-2 sentences. Three if you really have to.
- Include your core values that will never change, even 100 years from now after you are long gone.
- Include your lofty goal to accomplish in the next 30 years. Something a little cooky, yet attainable if all the stars align.
- Keep it simple for the average person to understand.
- Inspire… Need some inspiration, watch this video.
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