Vision and Mission

by Rus Slater

The value of vision

Loser companies often lack a distinctive or compelling reason for existing.

Professor Coulson-Thomas

Vision is what keeps us moving forward, even against discouraging odds. Vision is a most powerful motivator in an organisation. If it’s vivid and meaningful enough, people can do astounding things to bring it to realisation.

If there is no vision – no real, consistent, understood and agreed vision – then the people in the organisation will be very unlikely to do any more than literally work to rule. They will simply shuffle along, doing just enough to keep out of trouble and take a wage packet at the end of each week.


Although the process and outcomes of visioning may seem vague and superfluous, the long-term benefits are substantial.

Imagination is more powerful than knowledge.

Albert Einstein

Knowledge allows you to see things as they are; imagination allows you to see things as they could be.

Having a vision

  • Identifies direction and purpose
  • Provides continuity and avoids the stutter effect of cyclical (annual) planning fits and starts
  • Alerts stakeholders to needed change
  • Breaks you out of boundary thinking
  • Promotes interest and commitment
  • Promotes focus on the bigger picture over the everyday schedule
  • Encourages openness to unique and creative solutions
  • Encourages and builds confidence
  • Builds loyalty through involvement (ownership)
  • Results in efficiency and productivity.

This holds true for departmental vision as well as at organisational level.

The difference a statement can make

A vision statement, and the mission statement(s) that flow from it, across all departments, can and should have a huge impact on your organisation. If yours is not currently appearing to do this, and you are not sure that it’s worth bothering about it, consider this: what is the ‘vision’ that put, and keeps (at the time of writing in 2009), foreign troops in Iraq? And following on from this, how does this affect every aspect of the military activities and organisations in Iraq?

Are they there to help the Iraqi people ‘to build a democratic nation and develop as a sovereign state’ or are they ‘an occupying army to suppress nationalism and steal natural resources’?

The difference in ‘vision’ will affect many things:

  • The make up of the force – the former will be support heavy, with engineers, air transport, medics and signallers, while the latter will be combat heavy, with infantry, air firepower and intelligence
  • The rules of engagement – the former will be more controlled and deliberate than the latter, which will be ‘gung ho’, shoot first, ask questions later
  • Their everyday activities – the former will be building, training the nationals, and providing medical and technical aid, whereas the latter will be bombing, raiding, imprisoning and intimidating.

Obviously the ‘missions’ that then flow from the ‘vision’ will be different as well...