The Difference Between a Mission vs Vision Statement

What is a mission statement and a vision statement? Do you really need both in your strategic plan? Is there even a notable difference between a mission vs vision statement, and what are the similarities between them? These are questions that many people find themselves asking as they begin to create their strategic plan.

We strongly believe that mission and vision statements are essential elements to any strategic plan, and we don’t recommend moving forward without them).

Continue reading as we break down the differences between a mission vs vision statement, explain why each are essential, and how they can complement one another in your strategic plan, as well as provide instructions on how to write a mission and vision statement.

Understanding a Mission vs Vision Statement and What Sets Each Apart

Vision and mission statements serve unique functions in your organization’s strategic plan. While a mission statement explains why the company exists in the present, your vision statement defines where the organization is going next in the future.

Despite their similarities, mission and vision statements are not interchangeable, and neither can one be substituted for the other. Your highest chance of creating an effective strategy is by incorporating these two elements together to complete a full strategic plan.

While your strategic plan doesn’t necessarily need both a vision and mission statement at the start of your planning process, we feel that it is always best practice to think about each and their role in your strategy.

Often, businesses will incorporate their mission statement at the initiation stage of their business plan. They find later that they want to outline their big, bold vision during their strategy planning phase. You can certainly do that as well. At the very least, we at OnStrategy believe you must understand the mission and vision’s meaning and function.

Mission Statement Breakdown

Definition of a mission statement

Your mission statement is a declaration of your organization’s core purpose. A mission statement focuses on the existential aspect of your organization, and answers the question, “why do we exist?”

It is essential for your strategic plan as it defines what impact you hope to have on the world around you. Your mission statement needs to be easy to remember, and it needs to provide actual direction. There’s nothing worse than a mission statement that is just a jumble of business-speak.

Characteristics commonly found in mission statements

What defines a good mission statement is that it is written in the now, is enduring and relevant, and is applicable for at least the next 5-10 years. A mission statement is long-lasting and shouldn’t be altered every 1-2 years. It also meets these three criteria:

  • States why your organization exists and articulates your core purpose.
  • Written in the present tense.
  • Helps define the area where you play.

Ultimately, your mission statement should be foundational, original, and memorable!

The purpose of a mission statement in strategic planning

With a clear mission, your entire organization will understand why you exist. It will help your organization make decisions that support your core purpose and inform your planning process from the beginning.

How to write a mission statement

Every mission statement must have these five basic elements:

  • A label such as, “Our mission…”
  • A verb in the present tense.
  • For whom you’re doing this for.
  • A result or benefit of the work you do.
  • What you do and how you do it.
  • Use cases for effective mission statements

    A mission statement defines your organization’s purpose to the world around you and shows your community and customers what to expect from you. Here are some relevant and well-known mission statement examples that may serve as inspiration as you write your mission statement:

    • Starbucks:
    • Nordstrom: “Our mission is to continue our dedication to providing a unique range of products, exceptional customer service, and great experiences.”
    • TED Talk: “Spread ideas. Make great ideas accessible and spark conversation.”
    • LinkedIn: “To connect the world’s professionals to make them more productive and successful.”
    • Google: “To organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”

    Vision Statement Breakdown

    Definition of a vision statement

    A vision statement declares where you are headed – your ideal future state. Its purpose is to formulate a picture of your organization’s strategic direction for the next 3-5 years.

    We always explain your mission as “knowing what mountain you’re climbing,” and your vision as “how you’re going to get there.” Your vision is the ambitious future Point B to your current Point A.

    Characteristics commonly found in vision statements

    At OnStrategy, we always discuss the importance of having a ‘big, bold vision’. We believe that it is a foundational aspect of all strategic plans, as you can’t come up with a roadmap to get somewhere if you don’t know where you are heading.

    Vision statements are forward-facing and generally look at least 5-10 years in the future. They clearly describe what success looks like and what you’re seeking to achieve. Here are some common characteristics of an effective and inspiring vision statement:

    • States your organization’s bold vision for the future. It should be aspirational and slightly out of reach. A vision that is easy to achieve fails to inspire your team to stretch themselves.
    • Defines why the vision is essential.
    • Written in a future tense.
    • Helps create the roadmap for the future.
    • Harmonizes with your mission statement.

    The purpose of vision statements in strategic planning

    An ideal vision statement can benefit your strategic plan as it serves as the framework to guide your plan. Having a clear vision tells your employees where they’ll be if they stick around. If you want to craft a powerful vision, ask, “What will your organization look like 5 to 10 years from now?”

    There are countless other benefits of incorporating a vision statement into your strategic plan. They help serve as a foundation, provide direction and clarity for your organization, and align your team to the overarching goals.

    How to write a vision statement

    An effective vision statement always includes these three ingredients:

    • The phrase “Our vision…” or “We envision…”
    • A verb in the future tense.
    • A description of the organization in the future or its impact on the world.

    Use the following canvas to guide your exercise and with each matrix, ask yourself two questions: “What does success look like (in this area)?” and “How is it different from today?”.

    So, you’re right about to begin crafting your strategic plan, but you don’t know the difference between all the different components. Especially your mission, vision, values or principles? Do we really need so many different statements? Are they just something to get everyone to memorize? Are they different from each other? What are they really supposed to do?

    Effective vision statement examples

    Sometimes, the vision is clear, but articulating it into a comprehensive and simple message can be challenging. Here are some effective vision statement examples that may help guide you as you create your company’s vision statement:

    • Honda: Serve people worldwide with the joy of expanding their life’s potential by leading the advancement of mobility and enabling people everywhere in the world to improve their daily lives.
    • Hulu: Lead the future of Streaming TV by creating new and familiar experiences for our viewers, amplifying bold voices, and challenging our diverse builders and creators to push the boundaries of storytelling and technology.
    • Global Fund for Children: The Global Fund for Children, envision a world where all children have the opportunity to learn, grow and thrive. This vision can be turned into reality with the help of grassroots organizations.
    • Habitat for Humanity: A world where everyone has a decent place to live.
    • Johnson and Johnson: To help people see better, connect better, live better.

    Comparing Mission and Vision Statements

    Distinguishing your mission statement from your vision statement

    While a company’s future vision statement describes the organization’s future state, the mission statement describes and directly relates to the vision by articulating the greater reason why that vision matters. A powerful mission keeps the organization on track and rallies around the direction the organization is headed. Learn how to write your mission statement here.

    Commonalities between a mission vs vision statement

    Mission statements and vision statements serve as the foundational elements of many strategic plans. Defining your mission and vision is essential to your organizational strategy as they help set your intentions for your organization—why you were created and where you are going.

    It is recommended that before you jump into the creation of your strategic goals or initiatives, you take a beat and figure out these two existential aspects of your organization first. Not only do the statements that you craft have immediate effects, but they also work to guide the rest of your plan.


    The reason your strategic plan needs both a mission and a vision statement

    Mission and vision statements have two distinct purposes, while also sharing many similarities. Essentially, these two statements are two sides of the same coin. Your mission statement tells your customers and team where you are and why you exist, while your vision statement describes your desired future state or aspirational impact.

    These two elements combine to inform and create your strategy, which is your plan for how to overcome your current and potential future competitors. The mission and vision are essentially your corporate aspirations, and your strategy is your meticulous plan for achieving them. Because these two statements, used in tandem, define why you exist now and what you aspire to offer in the future, this can make it easier to pinpoint your unique value proposition within the market.

    A vision statement also helps you outline the actions and steps you need to take to make your vision a reality. If you can anchor your plan to your mission and vision, you’ll never lose your direction, even if you must pivot your strategy periodically to respond to different market or environmental conditions and customer feedback.

    For more on these subjects, check out our other articles on the topics:

    For a deep dive on Mission Statements, check out our post on all things mission.


    How to write a mission and vision statement

    It is quite simple to follow our template on how to write a mission and vision statement. Every mission statement must have these five basic elements:

    • A label such as, “Our mission…”
    • A verb in the present tense.
    • For whom you’re doing this for.
    • A result or benefit of the work you do.
    • What you do and how you do it.

    While every vision statement requires these elements:

    • The phrase “Our vision…” or “We envision…”
    • A verb in the future tense.
    • A description of the organization in the future or impact on the world.

    What are the key differences between a mission vs vision statement?

    One of the key differences between mission vs vision statements are that the mission statement focuses more existentially on why the organization exists and what its core purpose in the world is, while a vision statement describes where the organization will be in the next 5-10 years in the future.

    How can a mission and vision statement be used together?

    Ideally, a mission and vision statement are created in tandem in the beginning stages to form the foundation of your strategic plan. These two elements combine to inform and create your strategy, which is your plan for how to overcome your current and potential future competitors.

    All fields are required.

    Join 60,000 other leaders engaged in transforming their organizations.

    Subscribe to get the latest agile strategy best practices, free guides, case studies, and videos in your inbox every week.

    Keystone bright-path authority-partners iowa caa maw maryland mc kissimmee dot washoe gulf reno