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How To Write A Better Vision Statement For Your Company
Having trouble crafting a meaningful vision statement? Here’s a concise guide, with examples, to writing an effective one, and tips on how to turn it into an actionable plan.
What is a vision statement?
In a nutshell, a vision statement clarifies the direction in which your organization is headed by stating the outcomes you expect to achieve in the near future.
Not to be confused with a mission statement—which describes what your company does and how it is different from other organizations in your competitive space—a vision statement explains how your company plans to live out its mission statement. The mission is timeless, but the vision is time-bound and a bit more tangible. (You’ll see the distinction in the vision statement examples later in this article.)
A good vision statement has these qualities:
- Specifies what success looks like for your organization
- Clear and easy to communicate
If you hit all these points, your vision statement will generate internal and external buy-in, motivating and inspiring people to rally around what you’re trying to accomplish as a company. It will stand out and have meaning to both employees and customers.
Why is a vision statement important?
It is crucial for every organization, regardless of size or industry, to craft a vision statement because it gives employees a sense of purpose.
One of the largest drivers of employee satisfaction is doing meaningful work; with a clear vision statement, employees can rally behind a shared goal that drives them every day. A well-written vision statement should excite and motivate your employees about your organization and the progress you’ll all make together in the near future.
That sense of purpose also helps unify your organization during times of adversity and hardship. Every organization encounters occasional periods of difficulty; having a clear and meaningful vision will keep your employees striving forward despite challenges.
Another important function of a vision statement is that it informs your organizational strategy. It can be a very useful guide for setting goals and objectives and determining the projects you choose to engage in. It can also serve as a guidepost for decision-making at all levels, from the executive board to individual employees. Without a clear vision, decisions may not always align with the company’s higher purpose.
Note that while a vision statement is a necessary component of goal-setting, you’ll also need tools and a system in place to help you turn that vision into reality. With strategy software like ClearPoint, you can convert your vision statement into specific goals and manageable projects; you can also track your progress and easily generate shareable reports. Some organizations attempt to fulfill their visions without putting a solid support structure in place—for example, they try to use Excel for tracking, or cobble together a reporting system that involves multiple software tools. Both tactics result in more work for you, but most importantly, they won’t provide the reliable, simple reporting structure that serves as the foundation for strategy execution.
Keep reading to learn more about how to create a vision statement, and how ClearPoint specifically can help you fulfill your vision.
Craft and carry out your unique vision and strategy with the help of our Strategy Execution Toolkit.
How do you create a vision statement? The 4-Step Process
Vision statements shouldn’t be the brainchild of a single individual—an inclusive writing process is more likely to produce a statement that garners support from everyone. Gather a small team of individuals who exemplify your organization’s values and standards and also represent a cross-section of experience and expertise. Then, follow the below steps to articulate your vision in a clear, concise way.
1. Project five to ten years into the future.
Imagine a future world in which your business is competing well 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.
To formulate these projections, it may be helpful to conduct a gap analysis. A gap analysis is a way to compare current performance to desired performance—essentially allowing you to visualize the difference between reality and target. The end result gives you a better understanding of where your organization is struggling—and where it has room to grow. (If you’d like some direction on how to do that, check out this post!)
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?”
The social services provider, Catholic Charities of Boston, clarified its uniqueness as an organization by defining the following:
- Objective: to build a just and compassionate society
- Advantage: to provide a truly integrated set of solutions, from helping a refugee family find housing, to job training, to emergency food and resources, and so on
- Scope: limited to the “neediest poor”
The resulting OAS statement is:
3. Describe what success looks like in your organization.
To help formulate your statement, consider how you might complete this sentence:
We are successful if we are…
The resulting sentiment should be clear and succinct, and, if you’re diving deep enough, reveal what sets you apart from the competition. The end result should get everyone on the team excited and working toward a common definition of success.
4. Write your vision statement.
The steps above should reveal ideas and goals that are important to your organization; use that information to craft your vision statement. Consider the following suggestions as you write:
- Nonprofits generally tend to describe an ideal world, whereas for-profit organizations describe their place in an ideal world. For example, the nonprofit organization Sierra Club has a vision of “clean energy, air, and water for all.” The for-profit business Under Armour wants “to inspire you with performance solutions you never knew you needed and can’t imagine living without.”
- Consider referencing your competitors or creating an analogy. If you’re a smaller organization building into a new niche, referencing an organization that your employees quickly recognize helps them create an immediate picture of your vision. Hypothetical vision statement examples that use this tactic would be: “Our vision is to be the Facebook of networking athletes” or “We will grow faster than X brand.” (X being the number-one brand in your industry.)
- Consider including a measurable goal, such as “We will be number one in the industries where we compete” or “We want to reach $X in sales by 20XX.”
How are vision statements different from mission statements?
Many organizations use the terms mission and vision interchangeably but they are distinct, and each has its own role to play in guiding strategy.
The mission is focused on the purpose of your organization and your competitive advantage. A mission statement is more externally focused, telling the world why the company exists. It explains an organization’s plan for the present based on what it wants to achieve. Some are long, some are short, some are measurable, others aren’t—mission statements vary by industry but all should be unique and realistic.
Vision statements declare where your organization wants to be in the future, framed in an aspirational, forward-thinking manner. A vision statement can have both an external and internal focus. It isn’t a road map but it does help organizations make strategic decisions, aligning effort with goals.
In some cases, organizations use their own, slightly different definitions of mission and vision, but these statements will always have the company’s vision of a better future and language around what differentiates it from competitors. This is a critical first step to defining your strategy.
What are some vision statement best practices?
Your employees are the primary audience for your vision statement. If they don’t know about the vision statement—or it doesn’t resonate with them—it won’t serve any purpose. So, the next step after creating a vision statement is to share it.
There’s no right way to communicate your vision, but these tips will help ensure everyone gets the message, and it is well understood:
- Communicate your vision in memorable ways. The use of visuals, which are more engaging than text, can be helpful. Ask a graphic designer to stylize it using typography and images so it is visually appealing.
- Share your vision repeatedly via multiple channels. Post the vision on your website; include it in corporate email signoffs; print it on company swag, and display it on office signage. Keep the message circulating consistently in any creative ways you can think of.
- Encourage feedback about your vision. It can be helpful to understand how employees are receiving the vision. Ask for and collect their thoughts and questions, and remain open to altering the statement. This openness helps the buy-in and alignment process. (Plus, the more you get people talking about it, the more likely they are to remember it!)
- Ensure you and your employees always act in accordance with your vision. The vision becomes meaningless if it is neglected or disregarded. It is important to ensure every future action is consistent with the vision, and, if inconsistencies arise, they are addressed.
What are some examples of vision statements?
The below examples of other organizations’ vision statements demonstrate the broad range of possibilities when it comes to identifying and expressing future aspirations:
“Amazon strives to be Earth’s most customer-centric company, Earth’s best employer, and Earth’s safest place to work.”
The vision statements of for-profit companies often describe how they see their place in an ideal world, and Amazon is no different. Naming customers first makes it clear they are the main focus; but success, for them, is also about being a good employer. By consistently setting the bar as “the best on Earth,” Amazon raises the stakes on the vision, almost making it seem larger than life.
It’s important to note a common pitfall of technology company vision statements: Don’t focus on your features or services, but rather the problems you aim to solve. Remember to keep it creative and aspirational!
“A world without Alzheimer’s and all other dementia.”
The Alzheimer’s Association has one of the most famous nonprofit vision statement examples. It’s short, pithy, and describes an ideal world in aspirational terms. It’s also very easy to communicate and get behind. The sole, direct focus is motivating and inspiring to both staff and donors. Nonprofits are unique because their goal is to generate maximum goodwill rather than revenue, and you’ll see that reflected in the vision statements for this industry.
“Minneapolis is an intentionally compassionate city where each of us can reach our full potential while caring for one another, eliminating racial disparities, improving our environment and promoting social well-being. We lead in innovative and creative ways, focused not only on our present needs, but also the success of future generations.”
Any sample vision statement from a municipality should include odes to the community and citizen quality of life. Cities with the best statements highlight parts of the community that distinguish it and are critical to its success.
For example, a rural municipality may have agriculture mentioned in its vision statement, while the more urban Minneapolis focuses more on social issues and the environment. The wording around the well-being, equality, and prosperity of citizens is fairly standard for local government vision statements, but Minneapolis phrases it with an eloquent simplicity that makes it easy to communicate.
“INSPIRE and EMPOWER learners to THRIVE.”
Another succinct example, EPISD’s vision focuses on educational outcomes. The choice of words is highly aspirational—“inspire” and “empower” are concepts both students and faculty can rally behind. And the reference to “thriving” students clearly shows their dedication to providing well-rounded educational experiences that serve the full range of students and all their needs and interests.
“We aspire to become the locally owned, independent community bank of choice for small and medium-sized businesses, professionals, and individuals in central Pennsylvania. We will combine steady growth, consistent earnings, and firm control of risk factors to provide safety for our depositors. Our people will be the difference in establishing consistency in earnings and enhanced shareholder value.”
This is a great vision statement example for several reasons. The bank is crystal clear that it wants to be the top choice for a very specific market and area, and then hints at how it intends to accomplish that. The vision also emphasizes the importance of employees, which serves to both empower the internal team and reassure customers about the expertise of the people handling their finances.
Overall, Centric Bank is honest about the work it does. It’s a financial institution, not Disney World—the bank is committed to generating wealth and providing financial security. Banking is a sober-eyed industry, and the feelings that should arise from a financial institution’s vision statement are very different from those provoked by a school or nonprofit’s statement.
Follow through on your vision using ClearPoint.
The bright future you’ve envisioned should be attainable, but you’ll need to take specific actions to make it come to fruition. That’s where ClearPoint strategy software comes in. ClearPoint helps you create and follow through on a definitive plan to carry out your vision—otherwise known as your strategy.
Using ClearPoint, you can convert your vision statement into specific objectives, manageable initiatives, and measurable indicators; you can also track your progress and report on the results. If things aren’t going as planned—maybe the progress indicators you’ve set aren’t really moving the needle, for example, or your team is having trouble following through on a project—you have all the data you need at your fingertips to make decisions that will get you back on track.
ClearPoint acts as a central hub for all your strategy data. You can get a quick overview of your performance with red, amber, and green status indicators that automatically update based on incoming data.
You can assign employee “owners” to each of your strategic elements, manage strategic projects (shown below), and link departmental business plans with your organizational strategy. Plus, ClearPoint uses automation to speed up data-gathering and report generation, which will save you a significant amount of time each reporting period.
The bottom line is this: You can’t simply create a vision statement and then let it gather dust. Share it internally and externally, use it to guide your strategy, and follow through with your plan. (You can read more about how to implement your strategy here.) And when you do finally achieve your vision, set a new one! Look into the future once more and decide where it is you hope to head next—and work toward it. To learn more about how ClearPoint can help, schedule a demo.