Developing Your
Organization's Vision
By Bill Birnbaum, CMC
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Your vision is a description of your “desired future state.” Thus you’ll create a vision statement describing your organization as you’d like it to be in, say, ten or more years. Note the emphasis on the future. For the vision statement isn’t true today. Rather it describes the organization as you and your planning team would like it to become - in the future.

A vision statement should build enthusiasm. It should provoke inspiration. It should stimulate people to care. It should “rally the troops to action.” That’s what President Kennedy accomplished with the vision statement he offered in early 1961. Kennedy said:

“I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon, and returning him safely to earth.”

Indeed, Kennedy “rallied the troops to action.” And in the summer of 1969 - before that decade was out - a man did walk on the moon. And return safely to earth. Unfortunately, John Kennedy didn’t live to see his vision become a reality.

As for the length of the vision statement, perhaps a paragraph or two. But length is less important than content. It’s what the vision statement says that counts. And the positive effect it has on people’s enthusiasm and performance.

Itís important to note that the vision statement isnít a description of detailed action steps. In fact, it doesnít describe action at all, but rather it describes a desired future state Ė a state of success. As to how youíll arrive at that success, thatís the job of your strategy and its detailed tactics.

How Does the Vision Statement Differ from the Mission Statement?

Referring to the above figure, note that the arrow representing Mission connects the present and the future. This is because your mission statement is true both today and in the future.

But the vision statement, unlike the mission statement, is not true in the present. Thus the arrow representing the vision statement does not connect to the present, but only to the future.

Note too, that both the mission statement and the vision statement exist within an environment of values. This because both the mission and the vision must be in concert with the organizationís values. For a more in-depth discussion of the difference between mission and vision, please see our article, "Mission, Vision, Values."

This article is adapted from Bill Birnbaum's book, Strategic Thinking: A Four Piece Puzzle

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