How to craft a compelling vision and missionFeb 01, 2023
"It feels really uncomfortable to think about my life that far out." This was how one of my Business Administration students responded when I asked the class how they felt about crafting their personal mission and vision statements. I'm paraphrasing here, but to the student, planning 5 or 10 years into the future felt unstable - far too dependent on factors outside of their control. I assured the class that discomfort is normal when you're doing it right. The truth is, making your vision uncomfortably bold is what's necessary to really drive yourself (or your organization) forward.
In my class, I asked my students to craft their personal vision and mission statements along with three SMART goals - one long term, one medium term, and one short term. As someone who usually facilitates these conversations for others, I thought it might be helpful to walk you through my own evolving strategic framework and share a bit about why I am building my company the way I am. As I explained to my students, sharing our vision, mission, and goals is one of the most powerful things you can do to motivate yourself to make constant progress in any area of your work or life that really matters to you. So in the interest of both demonstrating to my students what this looks like in real life and planting seeds of intention in my business, I want to share my vision and mission with you here.
A quick note - because I have assigned my students to think ten years into the future, I'll use that timeframe for my examples. When I work with businesses, I find that a 3-5 year window is more appropriate, especially given the pace of change and technological advancement in many sectors. As we move out toward ten years, the number of assumptions grow and the goals become a bit more vague - which is not ideal for business. But it's a great timeline for life planning.
Incidentally, if your organization (large or small) is looking for support in this kind of work, I'd love to have a conversation and learn more about your work.
Informing the vision
Whenever I facilitate planning sessions, whether for small businesses or large and complex organizations, I like to start by grounding participants in the truth of their futures. For example, when I look ten years into my future (ok, that feels really weird), I know that I'll be 54 years old. I know my husband will be 60 and retired. I know my kids will be 29 and 31 and will be independent, living on their own, in their own careers. My parents will be in their 80s and I hope, still in good health.
I find it helpful to start with what you know to be true, because that makes it easier to colour in the assumptions necessary to complete the picture - in this case - that my husband will be retired, the kids will be independent, and my parents in good health.
Next, I'd ask you to describe what you reasonably hope to be circumstances of your life. In my case:
- At 54 I expect to still be working. But I will only be working on projects that are extraordinary. I say this because right now in my business, I already have the luxury to choose who I work with, choose the projects I take on, and decide how much time I'll devote to them.
- I expect we will still be living primarily in Winnipeg, and spending plenty of time at our cottage.
- Assuming that my older daughter decides to settle near her beloved mountains, I expect that we will either have a small condo or at least take regular vacations to visit her in her natural habitat (AKA the Rocky Mountains).
- I expect that we will be physically active, continuing to go on adventurous vacations and cycling trips.
- I also expect that our sources of income will be stable. Our mortgage will be paid off. Our investment property will contribute to our monthly income. And we will be drawing on our retirement savings as needed to supplement our pensions and my work income.
Understanding your motivation
With all of that thinking done, I usually move on to an assessment of why you will still be committed to your business (or in my students' case, in their careers). What will you be trying to achieve, even after ten years? What work, what dream, what ambitious wish will keep you going all that time?
For me, my vision is of a world where the rules of capitalism are rewritten.
- Where a business model exists that balances profit with impact and integrity.
- Where strategy development doesn't just consider the bottom line or market share, but also the creation of work environments that value people equitably.
- Where there is greater gender balance among the CEOs of the Fortune 500 (right now, there are 53 female and 0 non-binary CEOs compared with 447 male CEOs).
- Where human-centred work is valued and hustle culture is relegated to the dusty halls of history.
- Where the next generation of diverse leaders are mentored instead of tested against outdated glass ceilings.
Ultimately, I want to contribute to a world that treats women and diverse professionals differently than I experienced throughout my career. My approach was always to use my power for good, to dismantle the systems, structures, and assumptions that limited diverse participation in the highest levels of leadership. I want to share that knowledge by teaching diverse leaders how to use strategy and power ethically and with beneficial intent.
Declaring your mission
With an understanding of what drives you to continue your work (or the work of your company), it becomes relatively easy to articulate your mission. Your mission is really the how of your vision. What are the responsibilities you will take on in helping that vision to come to life? How will you contribute to the change you want to see in the world?
My mission is to make strategy accessible to organizations and individuals. It's to build community with other diverse leaders where we can create that new future. I have been told I am an interlocutor - a connector of people. If we've had a conversation, chances are I may have connected you with someone else who could help you. My mission is to grow that network of people of integrity and facilitate opportunities for them to work together in partnership. Specifically, my mission is to help companies and individuals build new ways of working.
How relevant are your vision and mission?
Now it's your turn. Have you thought about your personal or organizational vision and mission recently? Do they still make sense?
Since the pandemic, many organizations have pivoted (sorry, I know that word has been excessively used in the past few years) and are now focusing on a different set of priorities. If it's time to revisit your company's strategy and you don't have a strategist on staff, you can read more about my corporate consulting work and my special offers for small businesses to see if we might be a good fit.
If you enjoyed this blog, you might also enjoy:
- Learning about about the importance of reflection before crafting your strategy
- Understanding how your negotiation style might be sabotaging your business strategy
- How to manage feeling overwhelmed when you feel like you're spinning your wheels