How to Differentiate Between a Vision and Mission Statement?

A discussion on how to identify if you're looking at vision statement, or a mission statement.

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iClick2Learn Team

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How do you differentiate between a vision statement and a mission statement? And do you need both?

Oh, I love that question. I love that. That is so good. So when we think about, and I’ll just recap for those watching, when we think about a mission statement and a vision statement so, at it’s very heart a mission statement is what you were born for. So it’s your organization’s purpose. And so I often I use purpose instead of mission, and also from a cultural perspective mission, isn’t for some people it’s not a comfortable word for some traditional liners. But I think purpose, it makes it really clear to people what that statement is, it’s a purpose statement. So I’ll use purpose for the conversation. And then your vision statement is what you wanna be when you grow up, when you growing a little older. So if you’re doing a three-year vision when you get three years older, what does that look like? It’s a really great one. How do you differentiate between the two? If you’re looking at something, you may not necessarily particularly if you’re external to the organisation, you won’t necessarily know straight away if it’s a vision statement you’re looking at or if it’s a mission statement you’re looking at. 

There are some key things that give you indicators, but ultimately, it’s about, what is the organisation here for, versus what does it want to be? And sometimes, what they’re here for is really what they wanna be. And so another example of an organisation, was that they wanted to be the leading arts voice for the region. They saw that as their purpose. Now this is their mission “To be the leading arts organisation.” but that’s not the only reason the organisation is established, like when you dig a bit deeper that’s very, theoretical if you like. It’s actually not demonstrating the difference or the impact they make. It’s not actually showing what is their purpose? 

Their purpose was actually when you broke it down, their purpose was actually the, why did I wanna be the leading voice for arts in the region? And so you can use- you might’ve heard of the five whys process. And you can use that to challenge these statements. So, okay they wanna be the leading arts voice for the region. That’s a vision statement. And it’s a short-term vision statement because it’s a very defined thing. Particularly when you look at the result, what tells you that you’ve achieved that? Well, the fact that we’ve got government agencies asking us for important. There’s a couple of other indicators well tick, tick, tick that achieved it. That achieved that vision that needed to move on. But they have they had it as a purpose statement as a mission statement. That was their mission. 

When you challenge that and you say okay but why do you wanna be that? Then it came out that well, arts, there’s so much cultural diversity in richness and I’m not talking cultural as in cultural racism, I’m talking culture. Creative thinking comes from the arts for example. So, it’s those types of things that add value to communities. It’s the economic value through events and activities and actually enabling a platform for artists to be able to sell their work, or for artists to actually make a business out of their love. So there’s all of these factors. And so when you start working through the why and you ask those questions, you get to the point of because it builds a healthier, artistic community. And then there were all these other indicators like, economic tells us we’ve done that, et cetera. 

So in actual fact their purpose, was to make sure that they’re contributing to the building of a- and that’s not exactly the words I use, but the building of a more robust, economical arts community. That’s actually their purpose. Whereas we want to be a voice. So if you can see the difference, if you had read we wanna be the leading voice for arts in the region. We want that language, want language okay. That’s a vision that’s not a mission. If it seems a bit too conceptual, that tells you as an indicator, that’s a vision. If it’s very specific and it can be tied to, things that like measures that will tell you, that you’re achieving on your purpose, such as we want to contribute to an economically sustainable artistic community, that is purpose. Does that example help?

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