Why Vision and Purpose Statements Really Matter
When we hear news about a company’s decline or demise, one of the reasons cited most is some variation of this: They lost sight of who they were.
Over the years we’ve worked with a number of companies that were intensely aware of their mission and goals (a happy circumstance indeed), or needed to reverse course to re-establish themselves in their customer’s minds as the same company they used to know and love.
The sad thing about the latter situation is that it’s completely avoidable and very expensive to fix.
There are several reasons for companies to develop meaningful, unique and actionable statements encompassing their brand’s visions, purposes and goals. The best one is that it keeps everyone in the organization focused on achieving them.
It’s not as easy as it sounds
A lot of companies have mission statements that include phrases like, “we strive to be an industry leader by …” or “we deliver superior financial results to …” Frankly, statements like these are worthless. Nobody remembers them, believes them or, worst of all, knows what their role should be in terms of making these things happen.
In 2013, Forbes posted an excellent piece describing the new vision statement and purpose statement rolled out by Southwest Airlines.
Vision statement: Our vision is to become the world’s most loved, most flown, and most profitable airline.
Purpose statement: We exist to connect people to what’s important in their lives through friendly, reliable, and low-cost air travel.
These statements are descriptive, unique and 100% actionable. Upon reading these statements, it’s easy to see how everyone in the company can envision their role in helping Southwest Airlines achieve success.
What happens in vagueness stays in vagueness
In addition to encapsulating what a company stands for, effective vision and purpose statements importantly also define what a company does not stand for. Companies that have vague vision and purpose statements are often left wondering what went wrong. It’s easy for insiders to justify introducing products and services under the guise of “striving to be an industry leader,” but if those products and services don’t make sense to your customers, you’ll be undermining the long term viability of your company. What’s more, the cost of undoing the damage can be staggering.