By Erica Olsen
Vision Statements

Use this comprehensive guide to understand the criteria for evaluating your vision, and how to create and define a vision you, your employees, stakeholders and customers can envision achieving.

Criteria for Evaluation | Creating A Vision | Defining Your Vision

Questions to Ask:

  • What will our business look like in 3 to 5 years from now?
  • What new strategies do we intend to pursue?
  • What future customer needs do we want to develop solutions to?

Criteria for Evaluation


  • Does our vision statement provides a powerful picture of what our business will look like in 3 to 5 years from now?
  • Is your vision statement a picture of your company’s future?


  • Does our vision statement represents a dream that is beyond what we think is possible?
  • Does it represent the mountaintop of where the company is headed?


  • Does our vision statement clarify the direction in which our organization needs to move?
  • Does it clarify the future direction the company is headed?
  • Does it clarify the customer focus our company should have?Does it clarify the market position our company should try to occupy?
  • Does is clarify the business activities our company it to pursue?
  • Does is clarify the capabilities our company plans to develop?


  • Does our vision statement give employees a larger sense of purpose?
  • Is our vision statement worded in such a way that our employees see themselves as “building a cathedral” rather than “laying stones.”


  • Is our vision statement worded in engaging language that inspires and engages people?
  • Does it create a vivid image in people’s heads that provokes emotion and excitement?
  • Does it create enthusiasm and pose a challenge that inspires and engages people in the company?

Capitalizes on Unique Competencies

  • Does our vision statement build on our company’s core competencies?
  • Does it build on our company history, customer base, strengths, and unique capabilities, resources and assets?

Creating a Vision

Kouzes, J. and Posner, B. “Envisioning your Future: Imagining Ideal Scenarios,” Futurist (May 1996, v 30, p.14)

Talk of being a visionary goes hand-in-hand with talk of leadership. An intriguing article from the Futurist, entitled “Envisioning your Future: Imagining Ideal Scenarios,” discusses basically, “a leader’s step-by-step guide to envisioning the future – and communicating it to others” (Kouzes and Posner, 1996). This 8 step program has a very simple, yet very useful, fundamental idea. The idea is that by having a vision is to be an idealist. This idealism should not be confused with unrealistic ideas; it should be used synonymously with having “a standard of excellence”. A person that is by nature a visionary looks into the future as though it is filled with possibilities, not probabilities.

Kim, W.Chan, Mauborgne, Renee. 2002. Charting Your Company’s Future. Harvard Business Review, June 2002 volume. Harvard Business School, Boston, MA

One article from the June 2002 issue entitled Charting your Company’s Future presented a novel way to present a strategic plan. Usually a strategic plan is a stuffy, numbers-filled document that presents a lot of history, some lengthy description of the competition, some goals and initiatives, and a budget. The authors make the point that it is not surprising that many strategic plan don’t result in action or implementation.

They present four steps of visualizing strategy:

  1. Visual awakening – draw an as-is picture and see where you need to change
  2. Visual exploration – look at alternatives – customers, products, services, etc
  3. Visual Strategy Fair – draw a “to-be” based on field insights, get feedback from a wide audience, build the best “to-be”
  4. Visual Communication – Show before and after, support those projects that close the gap to your new strategy.
    The pictures are in reality a series of line charts that plot the key metrics or elements of the strategy against competitors and customer needs. The visual tools are very helpful, and I have used this principle in many large meetings where a diverse group with very different agendas would build the picture cross-functionally, and begin to see inter-relationships that may not have been understood previously.

Defining Your Vision

“What will our business look like in 5 to 10 years from now?”
“Success is about maintaining the vision even through the most grueling details.”

Strategic Vision

A strategic vision is a view of an organization’s future direction and business makeup. It is a guiding concept for what the organization is trying to do and to become. Whereas the focus of the company’s mission tends to be on the present, the focus of a strategic vision is on a company’s future. If the statement of mission speaks as much to the future path the organization intends to follow as to the present organizational purpose, then the mission statement incorporates the strategic vision and there’s no separate need for a vision.) (Thompson Strickland p.24)

A vision statement answers the questions “What will our business look like in 5 to 10 years from now?” A strategic vision is a roadmap of a company’s future – the direction it is headed, the customer focus it should have, the market position it should try to occupy, the business activities to be pursued, and the capabilities it plans to develop. Forming a strategic vision of what the company’s future business makeup will be and where the organization is headed is needed so as to provide long-term direction, delineate what kind of enterprise the company is trying to become, and infuse the organization with a sense of purposeful action. Strategic vision charts the course for the organization to pursue and creates organizational purpose and identity. Strategic vision spells out a direction and describes the destination. (Thomas Strickland, p.3, 27)

A vision statement is a powerful picture of what the company’s business can and should be a decade from now. When a strategic vision conveys the market position it intends to stake out and what course the company is going to follow, then the vision is truly capable in

  1. guiding managerial decision making
  2. shaping the company’s strategy
  3. impacting how the company is run.(Thomas Strickland, p.28)

A well-worded strategic vision statement has real value: (Thomas Strickland,, p.36)

  1. It crystallizes senior executive’s own views about firm long-term direction and future.
  2. It guides managerial decision making.
  3. It conveys an organizational purpose that arouses employee buy-in and commitment.
  4. It provides a beacon lower-level managers can use to form departmental missions, set departmental objectives, and craft strategies.
  5. It helps an organization prepare for the future.

Developing a Strategic Vision Statement

The entrepreneurial challenge in developing a strategic vision is to think creatively about how to prepare a company for the future. It requires rational analysis of what the company should be doing to get ready for the changes coming in its present business and to capitalize on newly developing market opportunities. In formulating a company vision, we need to ask some of the following questions: (Thomas Strickland, p.4, 33)

Criteria of a Strategic Vision Statement

The whole idea behind developing a mission statement is to set an organization apart from others in its industry and give it its own special identity, business emphasis, and path for development. The following are some characteristics of a good mission statement: (Thompson Strickland, p.29, 34-35)

    • The Vision Statement Provides a Picture of What Our Business will Look Like in 5 to 10 Years from Now.
      It should have a time horizon of a decade or more.
    • The Vision Statement Represents a Dream that is Beyond What you Think is Possible
      It represents the mountain top of where the company is headed. Visioning takes you out beyond the present.
    • The Vision Statement Clarifies the Direction in Which Our Organization Needs to Move
    • The Vision Statement is Worded To Give Employees a Larger Sense of Purpose.

It is worded to give employees a larger sense of purpose – so they see themselves as “building a cathedral” rather than laying stones.”

  • The Vision Statement is Worded in Engaging Language that Reaches Out and Grabs People


It creates a vivid image in people’s heads that provokes emotion and excitement. It creates enthusiasm and poses a challenge that inspires and engages people in the company.

Some examples are:

  • “We will put a man on the moon before the end of the decade.” (President John F. Kennedy)
  • ” A mortgage loan company sets a goal of a 15-minute loan. (The industry average is several days.)
  • ” Breaking the four-minute mile (in track and field).

Benefits of a Vision Statement

Seeing the benefits of vision can be a powerful motivation for individuals to reprioritize their activities and resources. A vision is beneficial for some of the following reasons:

  • It empowers people and focuses their efforts
  • It focuses energy for greater effectiveness
  • It raises the standard of excellence
  • It establishes meaning for today
  • It gives hope for the future
  • It brings unity to community
  • It provides a sense of continuity
  • It raises commitment level
  • It brings positive change


Here’s an exercise I like us to do: Visualize walking into a room three years from now and shaking hands with yourself. Who are you? What is your life like? What is your business like? Write down what you saw.
Don’t let yourself wake up in three years and say, ‘I’m three years older, and I just happened to get here.’ Clarify your vision so that you can grow into it.”

Communicating the Mission and Strategic Vision

  • A well-articulated strategic vision creates enthusiasm. Mangers need to communicate the mission and vision in words that induce employee buy-in, build pride, and create a strong sense of organizational purpose.
  • Find it everywhere. When the mission statement is created, make it visible! Post it on the conference wall, place it on promotional materials, even on the packaging of products.
  • Presented and repeated. They have to be presented over and over as a worthy organizational challenge, one capable of benefiting customers in a valuable and meaningful way.

Vision Casting

Communication of a vision is the difficult process of inspiring others to see the future reality which you see and are committed to make happen. Vision will help people focus their energies so real needs can be met. When communicating a vision remember the following:

  • Clearly articulate the vision of your organization.
  • Be enthusiastic toward vision and the benefits.
  • Repeatedly share the vision in various ways, in order to be effective.
  • Carefully plan how you will get your constituency to become committed to the vision. The people who will help you implement your vision must embrace the vision.
  • Beginning to pursue the vision draws people’s attention and commitment to the vision. There is a snowball effect which begins to happen as people begin to catch on to the vision.