A Long Road - by Benjain EllisThere are a number of different ways to arrive at a mission statement. I’ve always found the easiest first step is to clarify your vision. Where is it that you plan to go? As well as being one of Covey’s seven habits, beginning with the end in mind is the basis for all good planning. It also covers the hardest questions in building a mission statement.

The challenge for businesses is that there in the ideal outcome there is no end – an even greater cause of discomfort when it comes to planning your life! A vision statement isn’t always about a final destination, more the furthest point we can feasibly conceive. Depending on the rate of change and what is known, this is most likely 3 to 5 years out. A vision statement describes the ideal, but achievable, situation at this future point.

Vision Statement

Creating a picture of the desired future distils our hopes and sets them in a practicable context. There will be some hard constraints or specific beliefs that shape our view of this future. Most business management teams have strong opinions about where their industry is headed, and what the company’s place is in that industry. This provides a skeleton for the vision, that can then be fleshed out with relevant detail. Where is the world going, from your perspective?

Placing Your Bets

These opinions and beliefs are the basis of ‘the big bets’ you have to place to be successful. Right now, in the software and communications industry, there is a huge deal of uncertainty. These times of change are the best moments to place these ‘big bets’, if you can call the changes, you’ll come out ahead.

Not everyone will come up with the right answers. That means there will be winners and there will be losers, and you will have to make adjustments. In business, as in life, we don’t always get it right first time, but we still take our best shot. Remember, no vision is the default ‘do nothing’ position, and it is a losing one.

With the economy in the US on the turn, and uncertainty in the economy, having a strong vision is key to getting through. In the same way, a strong personal vision gets you through tough times and helps to hold you true to your beliefs.

Somewhere to Head to

A vision statement captures this view of the future and documents your preferred place in it. Just as importantly, it acts as a reference to re-evaluate your core beliefs with over time. This works just as well at a personal level as it does at a company level.

To use a sailing term, vision provides a ‘point to steer’. However the tides and storms may push, you keep on adjusting course towards that point. It may not be the ultimate and final destination, but it is the course for right now. Once you get to it, or perhaps just near to it, you may choose to switch to a new course for the next section of the journey. This is the way that a ship charts its course as it tacks against the wind.

Once the vision is determined, the mission will fall in to place.

Next, Part III – the mission statement