Mission vs. Vision: You Need to Know Before You Go

by John, on November 12, 2018


Strategic planning is an important exercise for every organization. Often, however, the focus is on developing the key objectives or broader pillars of the plan and then tactics or actions required to operationalize it. But an effective strategic plan has to be tied to today’s mission while pointing you toward tomorrow’s vision.

There is sometimes confusion around the difference between these important bookends of the plan. The mission defines what you do and what makes you unique. It conveys why you exist and can be as specific and literal as “To build healthier lives, free of cardiovascular disease and stroke,” for the American Heart Association, or something broader and idealistic like TED’s, “To spread ideas.” In both cases their prime function is clear.

While the mission anchors your present, the vision sets the course for your future. It should be inspiring and answer the question “where do we want to be?” It provides a direction and an ideal future state. For the Alzheimer’s Association, their vision is simply, “A world without Alzheimer’s.” Aspirational and clear.

When working with clients to develop an effective strategic plan, we encourage a re-evaluation of both the mission and the vision as a first step. We ask questions like, “what changes have happened in our profession, industry or organization that might impact what we do or where we’re going?” Or, “are we launching any new strategic priorities that might require adjusting our mission or vision?”

Once we have alignment around these foundational questions of “why we exist” and “where we want to go,” it’s a lot easier to design the plan that will get us there.

Please share your mission and vision statements below. It's helpful to see how different organizations put this into practice.

Topics:Growth & Strategy