The Difference between Mission and Vision

A nonprofit CEO recently sent a question to my Facebook inbox. “I am trying to write a new mission statement and also to create a vision statement,” she said. “My problem is I am not sure what the difference is. My vision statements tend to look like mission statements. How are they different?”

Excellent question. She’s probably among a majority of business people who are confused about the two. Not knowing the difference contributes to foggy thinking and an incomplete vision. Here’s how I distinguish the two:

  1. A mission statement is present tense. It focuses on what your organization is today. It concentrates on the company’s current purpose and addresses why the business exists.
  2. A vision statement is future focused. It paints a picture of what you want the organization to become. It defines the new reality you hope to create in the future.

The mission and the vision should be complementary.

A mission statement should be differentiating and guide management in making day-to-day decisions about the company’s operations.

A vision statement, on the other hand, is usually more inspiring. Rightly done, it reflects the shared vision of the key stakeholders. It’s something everyone feels passionately about. People should rally around their vision, and it should compel them to work together on making that vision their new reality.

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2 Responses to The Difference between Mission and Vision

  1. Steve Davis says:

    Well said, Duane. I always define a vision as a “legacy.” What will future generations point to, remember and revere about our work today?

  2. Duane Hallock says:

    Steve, I’d never thought of a vision as being a legacy, but it makes sense. Thanks for sharing that idea.

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