Like websites about mission statements, there are millions of pages about vision statements and nearly as many ideas about ways to write them. Unlike mission statements, vision statements describe future possibilities. They are aspirational. They define something an organization aims to achieve. Vision statements are not strategic goals that will be completed in three to five years. Vision statements capture big ideas, ideas that could take decades to fulfill. From the website Blueleadz.com:
“A good vision statement defines the future of your business and promotes growth. It inspires your team to do their best and helps to shape and define why they are working for your company.”
Like a mission statement, a vision statement should be concise. It’s not a list of dreams and possibilities. It’s a promise to the organization and the greater community. It says, here’s what we are working toward. This is what we aspire to achieve. Here’s the future we want to create. It invites people to join you either as a member of the team or as a partner along the way. It should be demanding, inspiring, exciting. And, yes, like the mission statement, I give groups 25 words in which to accomplish this.
The three questions
What are we working toward?
What difference do we want to make?
Why is this important?
Writing a vision statement is our chance to define the future, to articulate the results of our work. What is it that truly matters to our organization? What is the big idea that guides our work? Here we start to define the changes that we want to achieve. What difference do we want to make in the world around us? What will be better because of the work that we do? And then we reach the fundamental question – why does this matter?
Asking these questions challenges us to stretch our thinking beyond the day-to-day. Such questions require us to understand why we are doing what we do. Asking these questions pushes us to the question of relevance. Does what we do move us toward this desired future?
Here are some of my favorite vision statements:
Alzheimer’s Association: A world without Alzheimer’s disease.
Teach for America: One day, all children will have the opportunity to have an excellent education.
From a Division of Student Affairs: To be a leader in the creation of a campus culture that engages all students and inspires them to change the world.
Ideas about future possibilities can be challenging to articulate. Like mission statements, work to find the overarching purpose and the ideas that remind everyone they are working toward the same future. That’s the essential element in learning how to write a vision statement. Imagine a better future due to the work you are doing. Write it down. Share it. Be excited and use it to help you do great work!