A C-Officer or executive has a duty to interpret and represent their company's vision and mission. For these hierarchical levels, vision and mission must be guarded and protected and not just considered an ornamental tinsel for brochures and posters to hang on the wall.
It is not uncommon to find phrases ( statements ) that describe the vision and that, in reality, are part of a company's mission and vice versa. But what is the difference between vision and mission ?
The vision answers these questions:
- How do we imagine the company in the future?
- What do we hope or dream of achieving with our business?
- What problem will we have solved in the future that is of general interest?
- Who or what inspires us to work to bring about change?
The mission answers the following questions:
- Why does our company exist?
- What do we do?
- Who are our customers/target audience?
- And how do we serve these customers?
The mission is the expression of the present, of what we want to be and achieve immediately. The vision is a statement of what we want to become in the future. The vision is the guiding principle of the strategy. It is the description of where our efforts and our work tend and will tend. The strategy is designed around the vision, and in moments of loss or disorientation the light that illuminates and directs the company's decisions remains.
But who decides the corporate vision? In family businesses there is a tendency to maintain the vision which inspired the "founding father" and it is considered a betrayal to modify it. In managerial companies it is normally the expression of the top management who decided it in some prestigious meeting room of the headquarters . In short, the vision is often the result of a top-down dynamic.
Because? For the usual misunderstanding between mission and vision , which overlaps the two concepts, focusing them on the top management. In fact, if it is natural for the entrepreneur, the reference shareholder or the board to decide what the mission is (what to produce and / or sell and to whom), the vision must be the broadest possible expression of all those who feel an active part in the growth of the company. It is completely illogical not to involve all levels of the company in building the company's future image. It means relegating them to the pure accomplishment of their routine work, in accordance with the provisions of the mission. It excludes them from the strategic moment which is the most strongly loyal and productive.
A rational leader does not make this mistake and ensures the maximum motivation of his collaborators.
But, in practice, how can the largest possible number of people be involved in building the corporate vision? Through working groups, which develop their long-term vision of the company. Through successive syntheses, the final version of the vision will be elaborated in which everyone will recognize themselves and for the realization of which they will work. It will be the transversal expression of a shared project on which to discuss at all levels in moments of reflection. Through the feedback mechanism, the different teams that have participated in the definition of the vision will learn to deal with the perspective of colleagues who work in other sectors of the company.
As the process evolves, the groups will become smaller and smaller, but managers and executives will continue to represent the instances of those who contributed early on.
In addition, the contribution of many people is also desirable in light of the very articulation of the vision. I, frankly, do not believe in the idea that vision can be summed up in a single sentence or, worse, in a slogan. I find that the synthetic wording is appropriate for the mission , where it is necessary to memorize in a few words what you do. But for the vision the situation is different. The vision it is a set of ideas that represent, through a conceptual image, the future. It is a question of relating to the environment in which one operates and its dynamism. Within the vision there are aspirations, projects, expectations, forecasts, it is the temporal elongation of the imagination. To restrict everything to a summary seems to me penalizing.
Moreover, to enhance all the contributions, the synthesis cannot be extreme. The vision is not a mere rhetorical exercise of elegant intellectual speculation. From vision depends, on average, 10 years to follow the company, with all that this entails in terms of investments, divestments, organization and learning. Furthermore, the vision , contrary to the mission, it is dynamic. It changes over time, in relation to changes in the scenario and in the market. Therefore, articulating it in the best way is not an option, but a necessity. A rational leader knows that vision , as a process and not a final result, requires a continuous contribution from collaborators. This is why it remains open and available for listening.
With this approach, the organization will be a body that is always focused on learning and constantly growing. The creative dimension of the vision requires both intuition and rationality, depending on the information available. For this reason, broadening the basis of reflection can only bring benefits. A vision well conceived, it is convincing for investors, customers, lenders, suppliers and all stakeholders in general. All that has been said so far makes no sense if it is not accompanied by a meticulous and punctual communication policy. Both internally and externally, it must be clear where the company is heading. At all meetings, at all levels, leaders must constantly remind their teams what the organization's vision is.