Developing a vision statement is the first step in the strategic management process. A company can’t successfully move forward in setting objectives without it.
An Arresting Slogan
When revolutionary auto manufacturer Henry Ford started his company, he aspired to produce a quality product that every working person could obtain. His slogan was “a car in every garage”.
When an organization looks to the future and envisions what they want to achieve, and powerfully expresses it in words, that is a Vision Statement. It is shared with all company employees, so everyone knows what guides conduct and decision making. Most importantly, like Henry Ford’s famous slogan, it evokes a powerful image of what that future will look like.
The Path to the Future
When a company lays out a path to follow in order to achieve their vision, that is a Strategic Vision. It will describe not only what leaders and managers envision the company becoming, but also the behaviours and actions that will get them there. It can refer to gains in market share, profits and an expanded customer base, all the while being rooted in the company’s values.
A Strategic Vision will provide specific guiding principles to help managers make decisions and prioritize. It is not a carved-in-stone proclamation, but will be altered and adjusted as needed depending on ever evolving external circumstances and shifting priorities.
Vision Statement vs. Mission Statement
A Vision Statement describes an organization’s future path, its primary aspiration and focus going forward, and the desired outcome. A Mission Statement is about immediate concerns, the present state of things, and the company’s main purpose. It answers the questions “who are we, and what do we do?”
As an example, McDonald’s Vision Statement sets out clearly what they aspire to, what actions achieve it, and expresses it in visual terms: “To be the best quick service restaurant experience. Being the best means providing outstanding quality, service, cleanliness, and value, so that we make every customer in every restaurant smile.”
The Vision Statement will be the foundation of the Strategic Vision which informs the overall strategic management process. Therefore it needs to be crafted with care, optimism, imagination, and insight.
The topic of this article is covered in the curriculum for the Schulich ExecEd course Schulich Mini-MBA: Essentials of Management (starting April 22, 2019). The program is designed to help employees prepare for expanded leadership roles and widen their business knowledge and skill set.