Key Differences Between Mission and Vision Statements

Clear and compelling vision and mission statements are important in the context of strategic planning. They help to provide the foundation and guide for your forward-looking efforts. Ideally, the scenarios, ideas, and opportunities that are developed and pursued in your organization are aligned with your vision and mission statements. But what is the difference between these two key tools?

One of the main differences is that a mission statement defines your purpose, whereas a vision statement extends your mission (purpose) into a desired future state. The following table explains how:

Mission StatementsVision Statements
GoalTo InformTo Inspire
FocusWhat you do / your purposeThe results that you will create
TimeframePresent oriented
Short term
Future oriented
Long term
DemonstratesWhere you are atWhere you are going

Examples

What follows are a few examples of vision and mission statements from large several tech companies. These demonstrate some of the key differences between where they are at now and why they exist (their mission) with the picture they’ve created about where they are headed (their vision):

CompanyMissionVision
Facebook“to give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected.”“People use Facebook to stay connected with friends and family, to discover what’s going on in the world, and to share and express what matters to them.”
Google“to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”“to provide access to the world’s information in one click.”
McDonalds“make delicious feel-good moments easy for everyone.”“feeding and empowering the communities we serve while sustaining the planet through ethical sourcing.”

A Personal Application

These statements are not just relevant for business leaders. Developing mission and vision statements for your own life can be one of the most powerful things that you can do for yourself. Why? It focuses your efforts and guide your decisions toward your desired future and helps you focus how you spend your time each day. This picture can be based on a goal that you have, how you would like to live, the type of person that you would like to become, and how you would like to contribute.

Here are a few examples of mission statements of people that you might know. As you read through these, notice how their mission aligned with what they accomplished each day:

  1. “To be a teacher. And to be known for inspiring my students to be more than they thought they could be.”  -Oprah
  2. “To have fun in my journey through life and learn from my mistakes.”  -Sir Richard Branson
  3. “If something’s important enough you should try. Even if the probable outcome is failure.”  -Elon Musk
  4. “I want to serve the people. And I want every girl, every child to be educated.”  -Malala Yousafzai, Nobel Prize Laureate
  5. “To make people happy.”  -Walt Disney
  6. “Not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.”  -Maya Angelou
  7. “I shall not fear anyone on Earth. I shall fear only God. I shall not bear ill will toward anyone. I shall not submit to injustice from anyone. I shall conquer untruth by truth. And in resisting untruth, I shall put up with all suffering.”  -Mahatma Gandhi

Spending time to think about what activities you regularly engage in, whether for business or personally, will help you align your activities to what is important. Even little changes in how you spend your time can add up to a big difference over the years.


Transition Designs is dedicated to helping organizations and individuals create a strategy in the midst of uncertainty. We help you assess your current situation, create a plan that is congruent with your goals, and manage the “in between place” along the way. Clients typically work with us to design a custom plan tailored to their unique situation and goals. To learn more or subscribe to our articles, please fill out the information below.

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