The Different Definitions of the words “Mission & Vision”

“For one thing, the term “vision” had been tossed around by so many people and used in so many different ways that it created more confusion than clarification. Some viewed vision as about having a crystal-ball picture of the future marketplace. Others thought in terms of a technology or product vision, such as the Macintosh computer. Still others emphasized a vision of the organization-values, purpose, mission, goals, images of an idealized workplace. Talk about a muddled mess! No wonder so many hardnosed practical businesspeople were highly skeptical of the whole notion of vision; it just seemed so –well–fuzzy, unclear and impractical.”
-Jim Collins

Kenneth Blanchard defines purpose in a dialogue as:

“As you see the first principle of ethical power is Purpose…By purpose, I mean your objective or intention—something towards which you are always striving.”

Values/mission statements: Articulation of what the company stands for.

Best Practice Framework, p. 35, Business Ethics.

“…Businesses must have a vision about what they exist for, which is shared by everyone in the company.”
Moon and Bonny in the
Introduction of Business Ethics: facing up to the issues.

Gouillart and Kelly write:

‘A strategic intent is the picture of the company’s ultimate purpose’. There are many classic examples of strategic intent:

– AT&T’s aim for universal telephone service; Coca-Cola’s drive to put its product within arm’s reach of anyone in the world;

– Pepsi’s commitment to defeat Coke; or

– Toyota’s design to beat Benz.”

“Real vision can’t be understood in isolation from the idea of purpose. By purpose, I mean an individual’s sense of why he is alive.
Peter Senge

“Vision is the picture of the future that we want to see.”
Peter Senge

Know Your Purpose

[adsense1]We can start by inquiring into what we mean by mission anyway. It is very hard to focus on what you cannot define, and my experience is that there can be some very fuzzy thinking about mission, vision, and values. Most organizations today have mission statements, purpose statements, official visions, and little cards with the organization’s values. But precious few of us can say our organization’s mission statement has transformed the enterprise. And there has grown an understandable cynicism around lofty ideals that don’t match the realities of organizational life….

The first obstacle to understanding mission is a problem of language. Many leaders use mission and vision interchangeably, or think that the words — and the differences between them — matter little. But words do matter. Language is messy by nature, which is why we must be careful in how we use it. As leaders, after all, we have little else to work with. We typically don’t use hammers and saws, heavy equipment, or even computers to do our real work. The essence of leadership — what we do with 98 percent of our time — is communication. To master any management practice, we must start by bringing discipline to the domain in which we spend most of our time, the domain of words.

The dictionary — which, unlike the computer, is an essential leadership tool — contains multiple definitions of the word mission; the most appropriate here is, “purpose, reason for being.” Vision, by contrast, is “a picture or image of the future we seek to create,” and values articulate how we intend to live as we pursue our mission.