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Understanding Vision and Mission 

There is much confusion between the definition of a Vision and that of a Mission. So what’s the difference and is it even important for an emerging leader to understand? 

One characteristic of high performing teams, is that everyone knows what they are trying to achieve and why. 

Vision and Mission are two of the most misunderstood and confused terms in today’s management speak. Google them and there are literally hundreds of competing and often conflicting definitions. 

FASTLEAD views Vision is being the very big picture, and has to do with the effect the organisation wishes to have on the community, its marketplace, at large. There is an element of a noble cause to the Vision. It is the sort of thing you would talk about at a BBQ: “My company helps our customers manage risk properly so they can sleep peacefully at night”. You’ll agree that this sounds better than my company is big in insurance. 

Mission is how every level of leader would map out the desired destination, or goal, for the organisation: “We want to be the preeminent financial services business in our geography, admired and turned to by the majority of customers.” A good leader would then go on to explain the benefits for all stakeholders – employees, shareholders, suppliers etc – if this goal were to be achieved. 

 At FASTLEAD, we’ve developed a view that Vision and Mission can best be explained by the table below:

   Definition  Characteristics  Example
 Vision What the organisation hopes to achieve for the community – the difference it wishes to make in the world. • External
• Passes the BBQ test
• Big picture, possibly unobtainable
• Usually a noble statement
To bring free light to the world.
A computer on every desk.
Helping leaders lead better.
 Mission What the organisation would look like if it were to be successful. • Internal
• Passed the Town Hall test
• Specific measures
• Quite often staged – that is, by 20XX we want Y, and by 20XX we want Y++.
To be the most successful, and innovative solar garments company in the world.
The most successful and admired computer company in the world.
To be the partner of choice in leadership development for the world’s most successful companies.



Alistair Gordon 
FASTLEAD Coaching Team 

 
THE LESSON FROM UNDERSTANDING VISION & MISSION 

Whether you agree or not with these definitions is immaterial. But all emerging leaders must understand that there are big hairy audacious goals that we set for the impact our organisation hopes to have and, quite differently, the specific targets set to measure the progress towards that ideal market position. Vision and Mission are used at different times for different reasons with different audiences.


 
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