Leaders Letter Newsletter

Leaders Letter 155 – Is Mission and Vision Statements Actually Essential For Your Business?

Dear leaders, what I am about to say is going to divide options.

Mission and vision statements are nice to-haves in many to most businesses. 

In recent coaching sessions, in my advisory roles and consultancy gigs, I am often shocked by the number of companies who say they don’t have a mission and they don’t have a vision and it’s hindering their business. 

They suggest they cannot tell their teams where they are going and why they are heading in that direction without them being clearly defined. 

The challenge with this; how will you articulate your mission and vision in two sentences so everyone in and around your business can recite it without thinking about it, follow it, believe in it (enough) and retell others in simple terms to make your company or products stand out against the crowd? 

Mission and vision for many companies are just too fluffy or equally frustrating overly precise that the teams simply struggle to connect with them. 

The Essentials In Every Business Are:  

  • What + Who: What we are and who we are for, for the next 12-18 months – revisit every 5 to 6 months 
  • 1x Strategy: An annual company-wide strategyrevisit every six months 
  • Objectives: Key objectives you have to hit for the coming year, ideally broken down by quarter and month and ideally with seasonality planned in – these should be reported on and analysed every week, some goals will be daily leading up to monthly and quarterly reports.
    If a goal is not kept on top of it will lapse and become deprioritised by everyone. If you struggle with objectives sticking, use the SMART method or I highly recommend think big, act small by when frameworks for teams to build into these quarterly or annual objectives. 
  • Department Plans: Departmental plans roll up into the business goals and have to be completed by each department with connecting conversations to handle roadmaps, cross-functional dependencies etc – these should be reviewed every quarter 
  • Team Plans: Team plans rolling up in the department plans and goals – these should be reviewed every quarter 
  • Tactics: In-depth tactical level is critical explaining what we are going to do, how much we are going to spend and the potential to revisit frequently and as often to tweak the tactics to optimise towards the company goals. 
Mission Vision Strategy Tactics Cheatsheet
Here is the breakdown from the mission, vision, strategy and tactics cheatsheet

Beliefs, Bets, Pillars: I created the focus framework aka beliefs, bets and pillars framework to help every business make strategy simple, by creating a company-wide system that explains strategy simply by explaining the beliefs you have, the bets you are going to make and the pillars to drive decisions when teams could are conflicted. 

Throughout my strategy workshops and c-suite coaching you will be surprised how many lightbulbs go off when you remove the overly complex ways of creating a plan for the company to blindly follow and reduce the secrecy of the week offsite and weeks of tweaks into a small doc or deck that is shared across the whole business, including what we are going to do, why we are going to do these small number of things and where we are going. All explained in simple language with reasoning versus a spreadsheet each team has to fit into a formula. 

>> Here is a free cheatsheet for how to think and plan around mission, vision, strategy and tactics

Vision Vs No Vision 

A vision is great for internal teams to help make core decisions and add value to the recruitment process and for external investors and potential acquirers to help those understand where you are heading and why. 

A vision is however something you will struggle to change and often when companies pivot they struggle to say why the change, what it means and where the two visions merge. Visions can also divide leadership teams and will be hotly contested when you do not have complete buy-in. 

Visions will drive company culture until there is a mid-sized disagreement over what and why and your performance drops and people blame drops on a misleading vision.  

Is It Missionless Vs Mission Led

A mission is also great when you are setting off on something you cannot see completed for 100 years, yes 100 years! 

My mission is to fix the broken world of work, it is something I aspire to complete throughout my lifetime (let’s hope for all of our sakes and this newsletter is one way I see helping little by little) and it resonates with many people and often with clients who want to understand how strategy and company culture come together. Most companies’ missions are hard to see, hard to create any real action against and hard to place a value or a revenue target on.
With that said, many startups and upstarts can be mission-driven as they go after a specific issue and it can be why many people decide to join this business. The larger the business, the harder the mission often is and often is then contested. 

A mission should be something as simple as We are on a mission to do x, so if you can boil it down into this format and drive passionate people into this do it, if you cannot do it in an hour (I have sat in workshops over the last decade and its taken weeks to create a strapline or tag line for the business and a whole quarters OKR for the mission to be written and signed off – go figure why so many struggles), you are likely never going to hit a mission that lands. 

A mission will drive some but for many, it won’t make any difference, if you are a not-for-profit (charity & non-for-profit) or a business creating huge change, missions will be nice to have. 

Vision and missions should fit on a post it note, the tendency is to throw in a lot of jargon and buzzwords that won’t land in the external world meaning it won’t translate to customers (internal or external) so make it so simple your parent or child would get it. 

Q: Do you still want a vision and mission statement?
I recommend most companies put a SWAT team on your mission and vision project, give them two x one-hour meetings to complete it and if doesn’t fit on one post it note each you are overdoing it. 

This week’s focus action is to consider where you need a vision or mission statement and if it’s yes, find the right people who get your business to collaborate on it and present it quickly back to the management team and then to the wider business. 

Good luck with this moving forward and keep creating the right compass for the business to clearly understand their direction of travel, on the brightest and darkest of days. 

Thanks and have a great week and remember to sign up below for the weekly newsletter to land in your inbox every Monday.

Danny Denhard


Essential Related Reading


The Difference Between Mission, Vision, Strategy & Tactics

There is a lot made of having to have a mission, a vision, then having a strategy with a series of tactics to help to guide the business forward. 

A BHAG (big hairy audacious goal) is another level added in recent years to drive a sense of a company’s ultra long term thinking and showing that the organisation is going to prosper for decades to come.   

Breakdown Of Strategy 

Across the business world, many have experienced everything become tactical, we have seen strategy become strategies (this is the common cause of confusion and internal conflict) and the majority of us have experienced ‘strategy’ become tactical and change constantly. 

This chain of events just leads to the company compass being misaligned and misunderstood.   

Something many businesses experience with this shift is regular questions being asked of what direction are we taking, where are we going and what should we be doing?

Clarity is the key to success for any business.

Operating Framework

At focus, we have an operating model, we introduce to each client.   

We explain that our business operating principles are clearly defined and understood so everyone understands that change is either essential or part of progressing the business rather than just reacting to a change or a shift in the market. 

Our operating guidance is as followed: 

Operating Principle Explainer When To ReviewWhen To Change
MissionThe long term objective to complete as your business.

Missions should be somewhat aspirational but within long term reach
Every three years.

You can question every year but do not change unless essential.  
Once a decade 
VisionThe long term direction for the company.

The vision helps to guide decisions when anyone is unsure and needs to understand if you are making the right move. 

Vision has to inspire and be within reach. 
Every two yearsUp to twice a decade
Strategy One company-wide plan for everyone to understand, be able to repeat without any thought and all departments follow.

No team or department should deviate from the strategy. 

Your Company Strategy about guidance should be broken down:

5 Years is thinking ahead, 3 Years is planning ahead and 1 Year delivering for the next year.

It is imperative: No department should have its own strategy. 
Up to twice per year Every year 
Department Action plan Each department creates a plan of action for the year ahead connecting into the one company-wide strategy

Department action plans should be presented to the business. 

Each department should connect together and liaise on their action plans to ensure they will plan resources, budgets and allocate the right prioritises together. 

If teams (for example CRM within Marketing Department) with departments have to break out their action plan it has to roll up into their department plan and connect into the company-wide strategy. 
Up to three times per year Every year 
Tactics Part of the action plan is to help everyone understand the channels and initiatives you are rolling out. 
Tactics are the most flexible part of this operating principle and are important to review, optimise and tweak. 
Tactical layers are important but should not be built up first to build your action plan.  
Monthly Where required 

Each company and business approaches creating ‘strategy’ differently, some are top-down, others are flexible and open for all to add their insights. 

It is fundamental that each manager and every member of the leadership team understand’s this framework and introduces and reminds their teams of this operating framework.

With our management team coaching and strategy audits it is important to guide how important the operating principles are and how to use this as your framework to success. 

With the future of work being hybrid, having a crystal clear mission, vision and strategy could be the difference between missing and hitting targets.

Key To Explaining Mission, Vision, Strategy Internally 

  • For the long term mission and vision are the inspiring elements. 
  • Strategy is the driving force from the short term to the long term. 
  • What is important is to ensure that strategy is the compass for your departments, teams, projects and campaigns. If any team goes off track deliberately and is managed accordingly, you will see offsites and strategy sessions undone very quickly.