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How To Write A Vision Statement (& Why That Isn’t Enough)
A vision statement alone is not enough. Find out how to write one and how to make it actionable.
A well-written vision statement should describe a future state of what an organization wants to achieve over time. It should excite and motivate your employees about your organization and the progress to be made in the near future. It should not be confused with a mission statement—which describes what your company does and how you are different from other organizations in your competitive space. The mission is timeless, but the vision is time-bound and a bit more tangible.
Start planning your organization's future with this step-by-step toolkit, starting with your vision statement.
Below, we’ve outlined six critical best practices for how to write a vision statement—and more importantly, what you should do with your vision statement once it’s complete.
How To Write A Vision Statement: 6 Best Practices
1. Project five to ten years into the future.
Imagine a future world in which your business is competing well in or dominating the market. What does that world look like? Can you get there? For example, if you want to double your company’s profit in five years, what would that entail? Would you be in a different geographic area? Would you sell different products or services? Would you become a strategic partner with your clients rather than a third party vendor? This “world” is where your vision statement should live.
2. Determine your purpose and position as an organization.
To write a vision statement, you should consider your company’s objective, advantage, and scope (OAS). By answering the following questions, you can come up with an OAS statement, which will help you better articulate your organization’s strategy:
- Objective: “Why does our organization exist?”
- Advantage: “How do we do things differently, better, or more efficiently?”
- Scope: “What should or shouldn’t we do to achieve our objective?”
3. Describe what success looks like in your operations.
This doesn’t mean going into detail about how your operations work, but rather what sets them apart. Be succinct and clear with your definition.
4. Consider your company type and structure.
Nonprofits tend to describe an ideal world, whereas for-profit organizations describe their place in an ideal world. Consider these vision statement examples:
- Nonprofit, Ducks Unlimited: “Wetlands sufficient to fill the skies with waterfowl today, tomorrow and forever.”
- For-profit, Under Armour: “Empower athletes everywhere.”
5. Reference your competitors or create an analogy.
If you’re a smaller organization building into a new niche, consider referencing an organization that your employees would quickly recognize. This will allow them to create an immediate picture of your vision. Consider these hypothetical vision statement examples:
- “Our vision is to be the Facebook of networking athletes.”
- “We will grow faster than X brand.” (X being the number-one brand in your industry.)
6. Describe a measurable goal.
Consider these hypothetical vision statement examples:
- “We will be number one in the industries where we compete.”
- “We want to reach $X in sales by 20XX.”
Why Your Vision Statement Alone Isn’t Enough
So you’ve taken the above best practices into consideration and created your vision statement. That’s great! But the question remains, what do you do with it? How do you use your vision statement and draw value from it? Simply creating a vision statement isn’t sufficient—it needs to be put to good use so your employees are inspired to play an active role in executing your strategy.
With that in mind, here are a few suggestions on how to move forward:
- Relentlessly communicate your vision to your employees. Your vision statement won’t do any good if no one knows what it is. Furthermore, make sure you ask for and receive feedback on it. This helps the buy-in and alignment process.
- Implement a strategic framework—like a Balanced Scorecard—to help track progress in achieving the key aspects of your vision. Your framework should hold and track your goals, and break them down further into manageable pieces with initiatives and action items.
- When you achieve your vision, set a new one! The goal of a vision isn’t to set something so unattainable that you’ll never reach it. Once your vision has been met, it’s time to look into the future once more and decide where it is you hope to head—and work toward it.
If you need some assistance making your vision statement actionable, download our free Strategy Execution Toolkit. This 44-page guide will walk you through the step-by-step process of creating your vision and the strategy to support it.