How To Write a Vision Statement
The driving force behind any strategic plan is the vision statement. This article is an attempt to guide you through the process of framing a vision statement with examples to help you with.
A Few Things for Getting Started
This article is a mere guideline to help you frame your vision statement, as not every pointer may apply to every organisation alike. However, this will still provide you the gist of the matter.
- Create the pinnacle of the funnel. This would be the indicator of every significant action that you take going forward.
- Create an inspirational and memorable summary which describes the reason behind the existence of your organisation. It should be one of a kind which will motivate existing employees as well as attract new ones.
- Frame in a succinct statement what your organisation is trying to achieve. This will help the third parties such as the investors and the media to understand you better.
- Have a ‘limiter’ which will help to rule out certain opportunities which do not contribute in any way to your organisation’s vision.
Features of a Good Vision Statement
Listed below are a couple of common rules which all good vision statements should adopt:
- Your vision statement needs to be short. It should be around two sentences at the max. While it is fine to add details to your vision statement, you still need a version that is easy to remember and filled with punch.
- Your vision statement needs to be specific to the needs of your business. It should describe the unique outcome which only you can provide.
- Avoid using words which are open for interpretation. For instance, if you write that you will, ‘maximize shareholder return’, it does not convey anything till you specify what it looks like.
- Keep your vision statement simple enough for people both within and outside your organisation to comprehend. Avoid using metaphors, technical jargons, and business buzz words.
- Your vision statement certainly needs to be ambitious, but it should not seem unachievable.
- Your vision statement needs to be aligned to the values that you want your employees to exhibit at work. After you have created your values, revisit your vision to analyse how well they gel.
The Process of Drafting Vision Statement
While there are hundreds of articles which will provide you with examples of good and bad vision statements, they lacked to provide a concrete process to help you create yours. This article has attempted to outline a process of creating a vision statement which may work for you. However, please note, some vision statements which may not conform to the process explained below. This is just a guideline for you in case you are struggling to create a vision statement or need a starting point.
Step 1: Define the Output of Your Organisation
The first step towards creating your vision statement is to be exceptionally clear as to what your organisation does. You should consciously be ‘output focused’ instead of being ‘input focused’. For instance, let us analyse some hypothetical examples:
- A bakery bakes bread; however, the outcome of making bread is that its consumers need to enjoy that bread.
- A consultancy firm offers advice; however, the outcome of offering this advice is to better the lives of the clients whom they are serving.
- Similarly, a government department does a lot of things; however, the outcome of this service is to better the lives of the citizens whom they are serving.
While this may seem to be an obvious process, surprisingly very rarely organisations define this in a formal and written format. If they do it, it will take them a long way in creating their vision statement. But that is not enough in itself. Had it been enough, all bakeries, for instance, would end up having the same vision statement. This would defy the objective of having vision statements.
Step 2: Define Your Unique Selling Point
There are very few services or products which can be considered to be new in the true sense of the term. Most of them are on the lines of reinventing the wheel with a slightly different focus or approach. In an organisation’s lifespan at some point, someone may have believed that there is ‘something’ which would have driven the success of this organisation. This ‘something’ needs to be defined.
For instance, let’s go back to our bakery example. We mentioned that so far their vision statement is quite generic. It only focuses on the output of its customers enjoying their bread. It does not outline why the customers will enjoy their bread more than the bread of the bakery next door. It does not outline their unique selling point such as:
- Is it because they are using the traditional way of baking which has been passed through generations of their family?
- Is it because they use only locally sourced ingredients?
In short, your vision statement should highlight your unique selling point.
Step 3: Quantify Your Vision Statement
One of the most common problems with vision statements is that they are quite visionary. When the vision statement sounds unrealistic, the inspiration that was derived initially from a great vision statement turns into frustration amongst customers and employees. Let’s take our bakery example again. The bakery may want to refine its target customer by defining it as: ‘every customer who walks through our door’. While this may sound just fine, if they further wish to refine it, they can rephrase it as: ‘every customer within walking distance of our bakery’. The quantification that you apply may be industry specific.
Step 4: Add Real Life Aspects to Your Vision Statement
By the time you reach step 4, your vision statement is almost getting close to being complete. You can add one final punch to make it even more memorable by adding a real life aspect to it. By doing so, it will create a solid mental image in the minds of people whenever they will associate with your vision statement.
Let’s go back to our bakery example again. If it adds the following sentence to its vision statement: Ensure that every customer who walks out of our bakery does so smilingly. By adding the word ‘smilingly’, it automatically conjures a mental image of a person who is smiling. While it may not always be possible to add this level of tangibility to all vision statements, but if there is scope, it is highly encouraging to do so.
Let’s wrap up by taking a look at a completed vision statement based on the above pointers for the example that we used throughout in this article – the bakery.
“Producing and selling locally sourced cakes, pastries, and pies which are so delicious and satisfying that every customer who walks out of our bakery does so with a smile.”
If we deconstruct this into our various steps, we can see each at work as follows:
Step 1 – The output
Step 2 – The unique selling point
Step 3 – The quantification
Step 4 – The real aspect
As reiterated previously, there are multiple ways to create great vision statements. Even if your vision statement may not quite resemble this, you need to simply follow the process that has been defined in this article to bring about purpose and structure to your vision statement.