4.3 The Roles of Mission, Vision, and Values – Principles of Management

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Mission, Vision, and Values

Mission and vision both relate to an organization’s purpose and are typically communicated in some written form. Mission and vision are statements from the organization that answer questions about who we are, what do we value, and where we’re going. A study by the consulting firm Bain and Company reports that 90% of the 500 firms surveyed issue some form of mission and vision statements (Bart & Baetz, 1998). Moreover, firms with clearly communicated, widely understood, and collectively shared mission and vision have been shown to perform better than those without them, with the caveat that they related to effectiveness only when strategy and goals and objectives were aligned with them as well (Bart, et. al., 2001).

A mission statement communicates the organization’s reason for being, and how it aims to serve its key stakeholders. Customers, employees, and investors are the stakeholders most often emphasized, but other stakeholders like government or communities (i.e., in the form of social or environmental impact) can also be discussed. Mission statements are often longer than vision statements. Sometimes mission statements also include a summation of the firm’s values. Values are the beliefs of an individual or group, and in this case the organization, in which they are emotionally invested. The Starbucks mission statement describes six guiding principles that, as you can see, also communicate the organization’s values:

  1. Provide a great work environment and treat each other with respect and dignity.
  2. Embrace diversity as an essential component in the way we do business.
  3. Apply the highest standards of excellence to the purchasing, roasting and fresh delivery of our coffee.
  4. Develop enthusiastically satisfied customers all of the time.
  5. Contribute positively to our communities and our environment.
  6. Recognize that profitability is essential to our future success (Starbucks, 2008).
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Similarly, Toyota declares its global corporate principles to be:

  1. Honor the language and spirit of the law of every nation and undertake open and fair corporate activities to be a good corporate citizen of the world.
  2. Respect the culture and customs of every nation and contribute to economic and social development through corporate activities in the communities.
  3. Dedicate ourselves to providing clean and safe products and to enhancing the quality of life everywhere through all our activities.
  4. Create and develop advanced technologies and provide outstanding products and services that fulfill the needs of customers worldwide.
  5. Foster a corporate culture that enhances individual creativity and teamwork value, while honoring mutual trust and respect between labor and management.
  6. Pursue growth in harmony with the global community through innovative management.
  7. Work with business partners in research and creation to achieve stable, long-term growth and mutual benefits, while keeping ourselves open to new partnerships (Toyota, 2008).

A vision statement, in contrast, is a future-oriented declaration of the organization’s purpose and aspirations. In many ways, you can say that the mission statement lays out the organization’s “purpose for being,” and the vision statement then says, “based on that purpose, this is what we want to become.” The strategy should flow directly from the vision, since the strategy is intended to achieve the vision and thus satisfy the organization’s mission. Typically, vision statements are relatively brief, as in the case of Starbuck’s vision statement, which reads: “Establish Starbucks as the premier purveyor of the finest coffee in the world while maintaining our uncompromising principles as we grow (Starbucks, 2008).” Or ad firm Ogilvy & Mather, which states their vision as “an agency defined by its devotion to brands (Ogilvy, 2008).” Sometimes the vision statement is also captured in a short tag line, such as Toyota’s “moving forward” statement that appears in most communications to customers, suppliers, and employees (Toyota, 2008). Similarly, Wal-Mart’s tag-line version of its vision statement is “Save money. Live better (Walmart, 2008).”

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Any casual tour of business or organization Web sites will expose you to the range of forms that mission and vision statements can take. To reiterate, mission statements are longer than vision statements, often because they convey the organizations core values. Mission statements answer the questions of “Who are we?” and “What does our organization value?” Vision statements typically take the form of relatively brief, future-oriented statements—vision statements answer the question “Where is this organization going?” Increasingly, organizations also add a values statement which either reaffirms or states outright the organization’s values that might not be evident in the mission or vision statements.

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