Often referred to as a preferred future, a compelling vision is a short descriptive picture of what your organization is aiming for. Some books will tell you that you need to have a mission statement and a vision statement. Don’t believe it. While there can be a difference between the two (mission describes your reason for existence while vision describes your future) and there is nothing wrong with having both of these statements, there are plenty of successful organizations that work off of one unifying description of why they exist and where they are going.
Think I'm crazy for suggesting you only need one statement? Bear with me as I explain this using the following three examples.
1. Two good but unnecessary statements
Many organizations have both a mission and vision statement but there are minimal differences between the two in actual function or feel. For example, take Make-A-Wish, an exceptional non-profit organization that grants wishes to children that are facing life threatening illnesses. While there is a difference between the two statements, I am not convinced the difference is worth spending a hundred hours of planning, debate and discussion over just to create two different statements.
As you look at its mission and vision, both are meaningful, yet it is hard to know if there would be any measurable loss by merging them into one.
We grant the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions to enrich the human experience with hope, strength and joy.
That people everywhere will share the power of a wish.
2. Taking a cue from the Bible
Another example is the mission and vision of Jesus. How clearly can you differentiate between what the Bible describes as his mission and vision?
Jesus came to seek and save the lost. (Luke 19:10)
I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. (John 10:10)
On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Mark 2:17)
If Jesus didn't get worked up about perfectly defined mission and vision statements, maybe we shouldn't either.
3. One all-encompassing statement
Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia is the oldest and highest ranking children’s hospital in the United States. And it has accomplished this with one unifying and concise statement that it calls its mission:
Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia
Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia strives to be the world leader in the advancement of healthcare for children by integrating excellent patient care, innovative research and quality professional education into all of its programs.
I know some will have strong feelings about this, and that is ok. In my opinion, whether you choose to call it mission, vision or both, it is most important that you simply answer four questions:
- What are we doing?
- Why are we doing it?
- Where are we going?
- How do we plan to get there?
The answer to these questions should fit on one sheet of paper with a lot of white space! The result is often a clear and compelling direction with 3-5 priorities. We often call this “the playbook”. If you get this far, your likelihood of experiencing progress will grow exponentially, regardless of how many cool and creative statements you have. Leadership is not about statements; it’s about purposeful action!
We wish you the best of luck in crafting a statement that will clearly define your direction! For more information on this topic, read the article "Organizational Vision and Momentum" in our book GUIDE – Building the Team. Setting the Direction. Fulfilling the Mission..
Jay is the Executive Director of The Center and serves on the Senior Leadership Team at Calvary Church in Souderton. Jay brings experience in the areas of ministry assessment, leadership coaching, decision-making, and strategic questioning. Jay’s degrees include a B.S. in Bible, a M.Ed in Instructional Systems Design and a Ph.D. in Organizational Behavior and Leadership.