What is a Vision Statement?
A Vision Statement defines your desired future state and provides direction for where you are going as an organization. Vision statements are 5-10 years in nature and clearly describe what success looks like and what you’re seeking to achieve.
Vision Statements Clearly Define Your Future
Visioning is all about creating the future. As we always say to our clients, there is no reason to embark on a planning process if there is no desire that the future is different from today.
A strategic plan without a future state is like building a bridge to nowhere. Great leaders communicate [and overcommunicate] about where an organization is going and why. Plain and simple – great leaders unite their people with a vision, destination, or compelling future state.
Listen, we totally understand! Creating a vision is no easy walk in the park. It often creates anxiety, but we’re here to help you understand the basics of vision statements, how to write them, and how you can identify your future state.
Vision Statements 101: Answer these Questions
It’s easier to think about your vision statement as the concise answer to the following fundamental question about your organization’s future. Therefore, we recommend answering these questions before writing your actual vision statement:
What will our organization look like 5–10 years from now?
Where do you envision your organization in the future? How is that different than where you are today? What is the impact?
What does success look like?
Try to be clear about what achieving your vision will create for your organization and team. There is no valor in being vague or trying to please everyone.
How will achieving your vision change your business? How will it change the lives of your team? Having clarity about what success looks like will make your vision stronger and more compelling. Remember, you need your team to “buy in” to your direction, so they need to understand what the output looks like long-term.
The greatest vision statements of today also consider how your vision will change your community. How does it impact your team? How does it affect your geographical community? What does achieving your vision do for the environment?
What are we aspiring to achieve?
Vision statements, by nature, are aspirational. However, you don’t need to have everything wholly lined up right now to achieve your vision.
Check out our growth strategy guide to help define where you’ll play and how you’ll win.
The 4 Traits of an Amazing Vision Statement
So, what makes a great vision? We’ve worked with thousands of clients to develop compelling, forward-thinking vision statements. Here are a few common traits we look for in a clear, forward-driving vision statement:
Trait #1 – A great vision statement is future tense and points to a destination with action.
This might seem simple, but we always recommend stating your vision statement in future tense and using movement verbs. Sure, you need to say where you’re going, but communicating it with action can help your team feel the momentum.
We also recommend stating the statement in the future tense. This isn’t your organization today; it’s your organization in the future. It just makes sense.
Trait #2 – A great vision is bold.
Be audacious. Use your vision statement to dream about the future you want. Be bold but be intentional.
Trait #3 – A great vision statement is descriptive.
Ultimately, a vision is the ideal future state of an organization – a place that you envision as successful as possible given your purpose, current state, and desired impact. Think of painting a comprehensive picture of success from the following dimensions:
- Customer Growth & Retention: What does your customer base look like in 5 years? Why does that matter?
- Operational Excellence & Innovation: How do you picture your organization running faster, stronger, or more efficiently?
- People & Organizational Stability: How will your vision impact your team and organizational stability? How does that change the lives of your team?
- Financial Results & Impact: What does your bottom-line look like in 5 years? Why does that matter?
PRO Tip: Does the structure above look familiar? That’s because it’s the balanced scorecard framework!
Being clear about what your vision looks like in these perspectives makes it easy to bridge between your annual objectives and your long-term destination. We love creating “mini-visions” in these areas to create clarity about where you’re going and how it impacts your organization holistically.
Trait #4 – A great vision statement articulates “why.”
It can’t be said enough – everyone wants to know what they are working towards and why. The why is so, so important. It’s also arguably the hardest part of a visioning exercise.
Unpack your why by answering the question, “What is the LASTING IMPACT our organization will make for our employees, customers, stakeholders and the communities we serve. WHY does that matter?”
For this piece, consider not answering the “why” so broadly that it could be the answer for any organization. Your “why” needs to be authentic to what your organization really impacts. (If you are stuck here, check out the master of “why” Simon Sinek!)
- DuPont: To be the world’s most dynamic science company, creating sustainable solutions essential to a better, safer, and healthier life for people everywhere.
- Heinz: To be the world’s premier food company, offering nutritious, superior tasting foods to people everywhere.
- Susan G. Komen for the Cure: A world without breast cancer.
- Novo Nordisk: To be the world’s leading diabetes care company.
- Amazon: Our vision is to be earth’s most customer-centric company, to build a place where people can come to find and discover anything they might want to buy online.