Vision vs. Mission: What is the Difference?

Quick Navigation:

‘Vision’ and ‘mission’ are two words that people often use interchangeably, but they mean different things. Understanding the difference between these two concepts can help you with strategic planning for your tasks and, ultimately, your career. This article explores how a well-written vision or mission statement can inspire, guide decision-making, identify company culture and function as public relations and marketing tools.

What is a vision?

A vision is what you want for the future. People and companies generally define their vision in what’s known as a vision statement. Knowing where you want to go can help inform what you should be doing right now. An organization can have a vision, but an individual can also have a vision for where they want to take their career.

A good vision statement will answer these questions:

  • What change do I/we want to make in the world? 
  • Ultimately, what will my/our success look like?

These questions are very long-term and can be things that you want to accomplish in the next 10 to 20 years. 

Internally for a company, a vision statement inspires employees, guides the decisions the company makes, gives a clear picture of what success looks like and helps define ethical behavior within the organization. Externally, a vision statement should serve as a marketing device, create brand personality and develop trust.

In summary, a vision should:

  • Focus on the future
  • Look ahead a minimum of five years
  • Be inspirational 
  • Stay consistent
  • Be your personal vision or the vision of the company’s founder

Examples of good vision statements

Here are some examples of vision statements:

  • ‘To make the world more extraordinary.’
  • ‘To give everyone a voice.’
  • ‘To make good photography more accessible to everyone.’
  • ‘To become a home away from home.’
  • ‘To see a healthier society.’

Since these are long-term goals, your vision statement should not change often. The best vision statements are ones that inspire people to believe in what you are trying to accomplish. They also typically consist of a single memorable sentence that can easily catch someone’s attention.

What is a mission?

A mission is what you plan to do in the present. It feeds directly into your vision because your mission should help you accomplish the goals of your vision. 

Mission statements are short statements that answer these questions:

  • What are we doing today?
  • Who do we serve?
  • How do we serve them?

They are a more short-term vision for you or your company and, as a result, may change more frequently than your vision statement. They are often crafted with the input of many people within the company and generally end up being longer than vision statements. 

While mission statements are generally a bit more prescriptive, they can also be crafted to have a bit of inspiration in them. A mission statement can be a single sentence, but some mission statements are several sentences long, especially in larger companies. These are generally written in the present tense and, like vision statements, use very confident language. 

Outside the company, a mission statement will create expectations of quality and the kind of service customers will receive from the company. It also serves as a way to spread brand personality and message. Inside the company, a mission statement acts as an outline for the day-to-day operations and decisions that impact employees. It can also define the services and products offered and developed by the organization.

In summary, a mission statement is:

  • Focused on what you are doing now
  • Flexible
  • Made with the input of many different people in the company
  • Used to provide detail on how to obtain the vision in day-to-day operations

Examples of good mission statements

Here are some examples of mission statements:

  • ‘To provide access to and knowledge about illusionist supplies with magical customer service.’
  • ‘To deliver content that is accurate, engaging, diverse and easy to understand.’
  • ‘To provide high-quality, personalized photography at the lowest price possible.’
  • ‘To provide great customer service, listen to the customer regarding ways to make our hotels more comforting and ensure a clean, quality stay with each visit.’
  • ‘To give customers not only the equipment to reach their fitness goals but the atmosphere to feel comfortable doing it.’

What is the difference between vision and mission?

Below are some of the biggest differences between vision and mission statements:

  • Present and future tense. Vision focuses on the future, while mission focuses on the present. Additionally, a vision is a goal while a mission is a method for how your company can reach that goal. In addition, a vision statement is usually written in the future tense, while a mission statement is written in the present tense.
  • Timeframe. A vision should last a minimum of five years before being changed, while a mission can be changed more often. 
  • Length. In terms of length, vision statements are generally one sentence meant to capture the reader’s attention. A mission statement can be a single sentence, but most corporate mission statements can be several sentences long in order to define the services, products or operations of a company.
  • Reflective purposes. A vision statement is generally formulated before a mission statement. This is because it’s easier to decide what you are going to do today if you have a strong idea of your long-term goals.

While a vision and a mission are related, they are very different concepts that describe different points of your company’s goals or your own personal journey toward success. Understanding the difference can help you improve your planning and your success in the future.