Mission and vision statements are the broad, high-level descriptions of an organisation's direction and purpose.
They are often confused and are not the same thing.
Vision is "where we are going" - it's an outline of future direction, and the vision statement is a summary definition of "where we want to be".
The vision statement has an outward focus and is targeted externally at the world at large.
The vision statement will outline the core beliefs that shape and guide the organisation.
Core beliefs are the expression of the values that drive the organisation's culture i.e. "how we do things round here" - and that "provide the guiding framework for how we make decisions".
Mission is "what we do" - it's an outline of our purpose - "why we do what we do" and "how we move us towards the fulfilment of our vision".
The mission statement "defines our customer and core steps that we take to satisfy our customer and how we measure that".
The mission statement has an inward focus and is targeted internally at key stakeholders within the organisation and the stockholders or investors who own the organisation.
The mission statement is executed via the road map provided by the organisational strategy -i.e. "the ends and means by which we realise our vision".
However all of this is entirely dependent on the implementation of the strategy.
Creating mission and vision statements
The first step in creating any form of mission statement whether for a multi-national corporate organisation or simply creating a team mission statement is to be very clear about your "big idea" and then to define it clearly in terms of your unique selling proposition - i.e. "what's so special about us".
Then this needs to be defined by the key metrics of your success and expressed as a specific and tangible goal.
The vision statement should define and express the values that will make all that possible.
So often the words stated in an organisation's mission and vision statements - and often plastered all over the organisation - are just meaningless platitudes that are the source of jokes and derision amongst the workforce.
This happens, as is so frequently the case, when senior management are disconnected from their front-line employees - that is the people who actually do the work and interface directly with the customer - and these words have no emotional resonance.
However when these statements do have resonance and do directly address the emotional dimension of the workforce and when this accompanied with truly transformational and facilitative leadership they can be a source of great energy, direction and motivation.
Jon Katzenbach (Peak Performance: Aligning the Hearts and Minds of Your Employees) examined the leaders of some of America's most successful corporations and examined how they succeeded in aligning their workforce's performance with the organisational vision and mission.
Katzenbach identified clear patterns to their employee motivation techniques and the means by which they engaged their employees. In summary this was achieved by capitalising on and harnessing the emotional energy of the workforce to achieve a peak performance and thus a distinct competitive advantage.
Key elements of this are:
Believing strongly in each employee
Engaging the workforce emotionally as well as rationally
Paying equal attention to workforce fulfilment as to enterprise performance
One of the several big failure reasons of so many change initiatives is the gap between the strategic vision (and mission) and a successful programme implementation and very specifically the lack of a practical change management model and tools to bridge that gap.
Given that most major change initiatives that have a strategic focus are created to deliver the content of the mission and vision statements, understanding the many dimensions of successful change leadership and change managment is essential.
These themes are covered extensively across this site so I won't develop this any further here except to refer you to the resources below.