The vision statement, all too often dismissed as a silly marketing gimmick, can be a powerful tool for your business if it’s done properly. Here’s what you need to know about vision statements and how to write an effective vision statement for your business:
What is A Vision Statement?
A vision statement is a carefully crafted statement that explains what your business expects to achieve and enables people to use it for making strategic decisions that affect the direction of your business.
Vision statements are best kept short. They may range from a single, simple sentence to a brief paragraph at the most. They help promote the ideals behind the business in order to give leaders and team members direction and to keep the business moving in the right direction.
Joseph Folkman, a behavioral statistician writing for Forbes magazine, says that based on data drawn from over 50,000 businesses – companies with an effective vision statement show a level of employee engagement that is 20% above the average in their industry.
What’s the Difference Between a Mission Statement and a Vision Statement?
It’s important to understand this difference because otherwise you may not develop a vision statement which fulfills its objectives. A mission statement is focused on the here and now; it’s the immediate target for the business and explains what people should be doing and what they’re doing to the outside world. A vision statement, on the other hand, is much more forward looking. It’s an aspirational ideal of what the future would look like if your business was an unstoppable force.
Who Should Create the Vision Statement?
The vision statement could be written by someone delegated to do so and they could do it all on their own. Unfortunately, in that instance you’re creating a vision statement which is definitely more marketing gimmick than strategic tool.
It’s best to bring together a representative group for the business; it doesn’t have to be just senior managers involved (though you will certainly need some people from the top tier of management) but rather a set of stakeholders that touch on all the critical junctures of your business.
If the team you assemble is too large for a sensible working group. That’s OK. Split the team into smaller groups – then let everyone get involved in the creation process. They can bring back their creations and present them to the larger group and get feedback and input them into the wider process.
However, before you assemble that team. It’s best to decide what purpose the vision statement will serve within the organization. You don’t want this to be an exercise in creating a statement for a statement’s sake after all. You want the vision statement to do a job. If you can clearly articulate what you expect the vision statement to be able to do prior to designing that statement; you’re much more likely to end up with a viable output from the process rather than some meaningless waffle.
How Do You Write a Vision Statement?
A vision state
ment should be a specific statement. “Creating great products” is not a vision; it could apply to any business, anywhere. You want a vision statement that reflects the objectives of your business and one which inspires and motivates people within the workforce. It’s not a good idea to deliver a bland, comfortable statement in order to keep everybody on the team nodding along – you want to be bold and distinct in the outcome.
You begin writing a vision statement by bringing your team (or teams) together. You want them to reflect on what the company currently holds as values and what can be done to make use of those values to bring about a better future for the business.
You might want to get people talking about points in the company’s history and major cultural shifts to help them explore this as an idea.
Your vision statement should reflect the culture and the opportunities in front of the culture. It doesn’t relate to a product or service that you produce and sell; it’s the all-encompassing direction of the business and the people within that business.
Once you understand the values of the business; it’s time to examine “what do we want to achieve” and “what do our customers want” and “what will the business look like when we’ve delivered on those objectives?”
It’s the data from these questions that will help you start to create a vision statement. Don’t worry if you generate loads of data at this stage; you’re creating ideas which you can then choose to assume or discard later but go with the flow and create as much input as possible at this point.
Then when it comes to crafting that statement here are some ideas to help shape it:
- Look into the future 5, 10 or 20 years and think what the business will be like
- Don’t be afraid to dream big. Visions are for guiding a culture, they’re not a tick box concept (which a mission statement can be) to be fulfilled easily or even at all.
- Always write the vision statement in active language in the present tense. If you want people to be inspired by something it has to sound like something they can do not something that will be done to them.
- Keep the language clear and simple. No jargon, no industry terminology, if your vision statement isn’t clear to a 5 year old – it’s not clear. Remember that it should be useful outside as well as inside your organization to communicate what you’re really about.
- Don’t be afraid to add a little emotion. This is a vision, a dream, and not the notes from an accountancy course – be passionate and engaging.
A vision statement is a “nice to have” without a plan to use that vision statement. Once you’ve written the statement – make sure you’ve got a plan to communicate it to your employees, customers, suppliers, etc. and make sure that you allocate resource and time to establish the vision within your company’s culture.