The traditional strategic consulting engagement consists of three parts:

  1. The As-Is Analysis (Where are we today?)
  2. The Mission & Vision (Why are we here and where are going?)
  3. The Roadmap (How are we going to get there?)

Today we’re going to focus on the mission and vision of your company. 

Your mission captures the enduring purpose of your organization – the reason you started this company in the first place.  Your mission statement should be short, to the point, and capture the soul of your organization.  Here are two good examples:

  • Google: To organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful
  • Apple (according to Steve Jobs in 1980): To make a contribution to the world by making tools for the mind that advance humankind

Notice how they’re both easily understood, focused on the long term, and clearly define how each organization looks to serve its users.

By contrast, the vision of your organization describes your desired “end state” – it should express where you’d like to be, but not how to get there.  IKEA has a great vision statement:

“At IKEA our vision is to create a better everyday life for the many people. Our business idea supports this vision by offering a wide range of well-designed, functional home furnishing products at prices so low that as many people as possible will be able to afford them.”

Your vision statement can be longer or shorter than that, but it needs to include a vivid description of what success looks like and what you’re providing to your customers.

Your vision statement can be longer or shorter than that, but it needs to include a vivid description of what success looks like and what you’re providing to your customers.

Try the following exercise with your leadership team (or your entire team if less than 10-12 people): Reserve 90 minutes on a Friday morning and get everyone together in the same room (if some of you are remote, it’s worth flying in for this).

Ask them to take 15 minutes to write down the answer to the following question, “Five years from now your professional mentor is visiting you at work, and you’re taking him/her on a tour of the offices.  What do you see?  What do we do then? What are you most proud of?  Give us as much detail as possible.”  Then go around and ask everyone to share their insights, writing down the core themes that emerge on a whiteboard.  You’ll likely see a wide range of answers, each flavored by that employee’s background and responsibilities.

Then go around and ask everyone to share their insights, writing down the core themes that emerge on a whiteboard.  You’ll likely see a wide range of answers, each flavored by that employee’s background and responsibilities.

What you’re looking to draw out in this conversation is both what people see as the common themes across your organization and any big differences in perception.

Do some people think they work at a services company when you think you’re running a product company?  Do some people envision having sold the company off in three years while others dream of taking it public?  Are people defining success differently?  Don’t shy away from these differences and varied points of view – it’s better to address them head on and figure out the “right” answer than allow these differences to fester.

Don’t shy away from these differences and varied points of view – it’s better to address them head on and figure out the “right” answer than allow these differences to fester.

The week after, convene another 90-minute meeting to summarize and reiterate what you heard.  Use these common themes to start drafting your mission statement – remember, it’s got to be short, to the point, and capture the soul of your organization.

Next, take the various visions you heard and start building the vision statement.  There is no right or wrong way to write this, but you want to make sure that your vision clearly articulates what success looks like.  Don’t reach for lofty goals here if they’re not truly representative of your organization (remember, there’s nothing wrong with starting a small company to solve a targeted issue, and then selling it once you’ve solved the problem).

Though the activities I’ve outlined in this post seem less intensive and involved than those associated with the As-Is Analysis, the work you’re doing here is far more difficult and important, than the other parts of the strategic planning project.  Without a strong sense of purpose and a clear understanding of where you would like to be, your company will fail.  You’ll find it difficult to coordinate your team toward a common objective and it’ll be nearly impossible to strategically prioritize time and limited resources.

Once you’ve agreed on the right vision, compare your As-Is Analysis to the vision you outlined with your team.  How far apart are they?  In next week’s post we’ll talk about setting up a “Roadmap” that will help make your vision a reality.Opinions expressed here by Contributors are their own.

Francisco Martin-Rayo

Francisco Martin-Rayo is the founder and CEO of Hear Your News, a mobile platform that allows users to listen to their favorite news articles in a wide range of voices. He has experience as an organizational transformation and strategy practice leader at Booz Allen Hamilton, and is also the founder of the Winning the Minds non-governmental organization, which provides university scholarships to refugees in Pakistan. He prefers his books in print.