mission vs. Vision: What’s the difference anyway?

These two words are commonplace in the business world — along with values, strategy, objective, goal and others too cumbersome to mention here. But are the distinctions really important, or necessary, for success? Absolutely.

It's imperative for businesses large and small to have a clear idea of

1) what their main purpose is;

2) where they stand in the community;

3) what's important to them ethically, socially and morally;

4) what their hopeful future entails; and

5) how they plan to achieve the short-term goals to get them there.

The reason these business terms need to be clearly defined and lucid in the minds of the founders, operators, managers and all other members of the workforce who make the company run is straightforward — it is difficult to work together to achieve something if everyone involved is not on the same page. See? Straightforward.

The bulleted terms below are all too commonly misused and under defined, often leading to confusion and blurred lines in the sand. This eventual and unavoidably wicked case of misdirected focus can cause the brilliant minds that make the company operate daily become laggard and sluggish. The fate of the enterprise itself is then compromised, leading to the inevitable erosion of the company's core principles and overall success. Ahhh!

But wait! Breaking each term down into its component parts will help avoid this confusion so that all parties within the organization can understand the meanings and effectively cater to the slight yet crucial variations of each.

Mission, Vision, Strategy, Values, Goals and Objectives Defined:

  • Mission: A company's mission is their purpose and function — the reason why the company exists. The never-ending pursuit in a specific direction, albeit a somewhat abstract pursuit which will more than likely never be fully achieved, is the key to moving forward with a continuing purpose. The mission e.g. the Mission Statement reflects the products, services, potential and market placement of a business.

  • Vision: A specific and concrete future — the words and ideas used to precisely explain what the company wants to be and achieve. A company's vision should be a tangible end result; however, multiple visions will come and go over the course of the mission, so set appropriate time frames — these can be anywhere from 6 months to 6 years or longer depending on the circumstances.

  • Values: These are guiding principles that really get to the heart of a company — the concepts, standards and principles that are important to everyone involved. These cannot be compromised and must remain the true beliefs of the founders, owners, operators and staff.

  • Objective and Goal: An objective is a specific and measurable step to reach, while the goals are the “things” that a company's efforts and actions are anticipated to achieve. Objectives are the stepping stones to meeting goals.

  • Strategy: The action plan concerning how the company's tactics will get it where it's going — the skillful use of a series of actions to reach, or at least get closer to, the company's mission and/or vision. Now don't confuse the two. A company uses tactics to physically carry out and execute strategies. For example, a strategy may be to increase interaction with customers via social media, the tactic would be to launch a contest via twitter and/or Facebook.

The underlying message here is do not fret the semantics. All of the misconceptions that muddy the path to a successful future can be overcome through dialogue and the exchange of ideas. By effectively communicating, collaborating and being as specific as possible, a business can eliminate the cloudiness surrounding its mission, visions, strategies, values, objectives and goals.


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