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Vision in Strategic Management

Vision- Definition, Characteristics, Purpose

Definition of Vision

A vision statement is a company’s road map, indicating what the company wants to become by setting a defined direction for the company’s growth. Vision statements undergo minimal revisions during the life of a business, unlike operational goals which may be updated from year-to-year. Vision statements can range in length from short sentences to multiple pages. Vision statements are also formally written and referenced in company documents rather than, for example, general principles informally articulated by senior management.

Simply speaking, vision is an organization’s self centered, egoistic, selfish (in a positive and necessary sense) pleasure seeking goal, that directly attracts and motivates its employees: what a company “intakes” “inhales”, “breathes in;” what catalyzes a company’s actions. That’s why vision is first of all important for the company itself and its internal decision-making, but not for customers because it gives direction and energy to employees of the company rather than to customers. On the contrary, “mission” is altruistic – reflecting a company’s customer-oriented products or services. Vision should be given primacy over mission because implementation of the mission depends on the catalyst provided by the vision.

Characteristics of Vision

A consensus does not exist on the characteristics of a “good” or “bad” vision statement. Commonly cited traits include:

  • concise: able to be easily remembered and repeated
  • clear: defines a prime goal
  • Time horizon: defines a time horizon
  • future-oriented: describes where the company is going rather than the current state
  • stable: offers a long-term perspective and is unlikely to be impacted by market or technology changes
  • challenging: not something that can be easily met and discarded
  • abstract: general enough to encompass all of the organization’s interests and strategic direction
  • inspiring: motivates employees and is something that employees view as desirable

Purpose of Vision

Vision statements may fill the following functions for a company:

  • Serve as foundations for a broader strategic plan.
  • Motivate existing employees and attract potential employees by clearly categorizing the company’s goals and attracting like-minded individuals.
  • Focus company efforts and facilitate the creation of core competencies by directing the company to only focus on strategic opportunities that advance the company’s vision.
  • Help companies differentiate from competitors. For example, profit is a common business goal, and vision statements typically describe how a company will become profitable rather than list profit directly as the long-term vision.

The Difference Between Vision And Mission:

The primary difference between a vision and mission statement is the timeline, although there can be an overlap between the two. In general, a mission statement defines what an organization is currently doing, while a vision statement is basically the ultimate goal of what they’d like to accomplish. The mission is what people do in order to achieve the vision. It is the how (mission) versus the why (vision).

The mission statement can also be used as a cohesive management tool. It is mutable and changes when circumstances or the needs of the company change. Employees’ duties, actions, and behaviors should all fall under the mission of the organization. Because the vision statement is a goal that may or may not be elusive, it’s not an effective way to direct individual employee behavior and expectations regarding day to day activities. However, it does give an employee an idea of what the organization hopes to accomplish as a team. The vision is always forward-thinking and because of this, it cannot be used for the daily operations of a company.

At times, different language is used by companies to describe vision and mission statements based on the type of organization. For instance, in the non-profit sector, organizations will often use the term action plans instead of “mission statement.” The term core values is sometimes used instead of “vision statement” as well. No matter what term is used, it is meant to describe overall goals (mission) and broad strategy (vision).

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