If you don’t have a mission or vision statement, I wouldn’t worry too much about creating them. Every organization needs some kind of plan, but they don’t necessarily need a mission and vision statement. If you have mission and vision statements that are either so polluted with jargon and buzzwords that no two people can agree on what they mean, or statements that are so generic that they could apply to any organization (for example, “supplier of choice to our customers, investment of choice for our shareholders, and employer of choice for our employees”), it’s time for a major re-write.

Give the job to your CEO or big boss, along with a list of buzzwords that cannot be used. These statements need to be written in plain English so that everyone understands them. Good mission and vision statements have the following characteristics:

• Concise

• Focused on one or a few things versus everything

• Inspirational – make employees feel good about supporting them

• Memorable – wallet cards stay in the wallet

• Realistic – not everyone can be number one or the best.

Keep in mind that having an outstanding mission and vision statement really won’t do much unless you do a bunch of other things to link goals, objectives, measures, plans, strategies and consequences to them. In other words, having a clearly focused mission and vision is like laying the foundation of your new house – there is still a heck of a lot of work left to do to turn a slab of cement into a house. However, a cracked or shaky foundation will never lead to a solid house.


Mark Graham Brown has 33 years of experience helping organizations measure and improve performance. He is the author of many books, and this article is based on a chapter in the upcoming book: Killer Analytics: Top 20 Metrics Missing From Your Balance Sheet(Wiley, 2013).