Establishing good vision in an organization is the key to sharpening focus. A statement of vision says, “here’s our direction, here’s where we’re going, and here’s how we’re going to change the world.” This tool defines a successful vision and provides examples of good vision statements. (Updated for 2021)
Vision is not simply a slogan without substance or context. A vision statement is more than abstract words with no ability to guide tough decisions. Vision enables tough decisions to be made. It builds trust. It attracts talented people to the organization.
A vision statement has two components. The external vision is a vision of the ultimate benefits and outcomes you want to achieve. This can be a healthier society, a secure future, an improved environment, or a mobile society.
The second component is an internal vision of change. This is a vision of the future for your organization. This can mean a world-class money manager or the best-known brand in the world.
The vision statement for your organization should encompass both internal and external components. It should be sufficiently detailed and focused and give the reader a clear idea of what future success looks like.
Vision needs to be linked to a clear understanding of the strengths and assets of the organization along with the opportunities in the marketplace. Often it means a dramatic shift in focus and direction. Occasionally it requires a full-scale revamping of the company’s business model. Typically, it takes months to develop a fully-understood and fully-realized vision.
Vision is the third ring in the Six Rings Planning Model.
Sony, 1950s (excerpt):
Fifty years from now, our brand name will be as well-known as any on Earth. And it will signify innovation and quality that rivals the most innovative companies anywhere. “Made in Japan” will mean something fine, not shoddy.
To be a company that inspires and fulfills your curiosity.
Our vision is to become the most powerful, the most serviceable, the most far-reaching world financial institution that has ever been.
General Electric, 1980s:
Our vision is to become #1 or #2 in every market we serve and revolutionize this company to have the speed and agility of small enterprise.
Southwest Airlines, early on:
To make air travel cheaper and more convenient than auto travel.
Southwest Airlines, today:
To become the world’s most loved, most flown, and most profitable airline.
To make it affordable and easy for women to be physically fit.
To be the world’s local bank.
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.
To be the company that best understands and satisfies the product, service and self-fulfillment needs of women – globally.
Helping people around the world eat and live better.
Our vision is to operate Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s as dynamic national brands while focusing on the customer offering in each store location.
To be the worldwide leader in retail.
A personal computer in every home running Microsoft software.
The Walt Disney Corporation:
To make people happy.
To create better everyday life for the many people.
Bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete* in the world.
* If you have a body, you are an athlete.
To produce high-quality, low cost, easy to use products that incorporate high technology for the individual.
Giro Sport Design:
To make sure that riding is the best part of a great life.
To accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy.
To give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected.
People working together as a lean, global enterprise to make people’s lives better through automotive and mobility leadership.
To be the world’s premier food company, offering nutritious, superior tasting foods to people everywhere.
A trend in the past (as noted by Kirstin O’Donovan at LifeHack.com) used to be to craft vision statements based on a competitor. A few popular examples are:
We will destroy Yamaha.
Philip Morris, 1950s:
Knock off RJR as the number one tobacco company in the world.
Kirstin also mentions another type of vision statement for startups:
Stanford University – in the past:
To become the Harvard of the West.
Reach for Success – in the past:
To become the next Tony Robbins in self-development.
Here are some non-profit vision statement examples compiled by TopNonprofits.com:
Human Rights Campaign:
Equality for everyone.
A hunger-free America.
A world without Alzheimer’s.
A just world without poverty.
National Multiple Sclerosis Society:
A World Free of MS
The Nature Conservancy:
To leave a sustainable world for future generations.
That people everywhere will share the power of a wish.
Habitat for Humanity:
A world where everyone has a decent place to live.
San Diego Zoo:
To become a world leader at connecting people to wildlife and conservation.
NPR, with its network of independent member stations, is America’s pre-eminent news institution.
Ducks Unlimited is wetlands sufficient to fill the skies with waterfowl today, tomorrow and forever.
Oceana seeks to make our oceans as rich, healthy and abundant as they once were.
In Touch Ministries:
Proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ to people in every country of the world.
Striving to be the world’s leader in patient experience, clinical outcomes, research and education.
Save the Children:
A world in which every child attains the right to survival, protection, development, and participation.
Teach for America:
One day, all children in this nation will have the opportunity to attain an excellent education.
Shaping the future by preserving our heritage, discovering new knowledge, and sharing our resources with the world.
That the United States is a humane community in which all animals are treated with respect and kindness.
Leukemia & Lymphoma Society:
Cure leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin’s disease and myeloma, and improve the quality of life of patients and their families.
For every child, life in all its fullness; Our prayer for every heart, the will to make it so.
To implement sustainable programs that improve access worldwide to investment, opportunity, and lifesaving services now and for future generations.
Every person has the opportunity to achieve his/her fullest potential and participate in and contribute to all aspects of life.
Boy Scouts of America:
To prepare every eligible youth in America to become a responsible, participating citizen and leader who is guided by the Scout Oath and Law.
We seek to save a planet, a world of life. Reconciling the needs of human beings and the needs of others that share the Earth…
We envision a world where all people – even in the most remote areas of the globe – hold the power to create opportunity for themselves and others.
A world in which every person enjoys all of the human rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international human rights instruments.
Charity: water believes that we can end the water crisis in our lifetime by ensuring that every person on the planet has access to life’s most basic need — clean drinking water.
To transform communities by inspiring people throughout the world to open their minds, accept and include people with intellectual disabilities and thereby anyone who is perceived as different.
Nothing less than realizing the full potential of the Internet — universal access to research and education, full participation in culture — to drive a new era of development, growth, and productivity.
Ensure that veterans are respected for their service, always receive their earned entitlements, and are recognized for the sacrifices they and their loved ones have made on behalf of this great country.
The mission statement is “every day,” and the vision statement is the “someday.” (Source: ChamberMaster.com)
Here are a few examples to illustrate the differences:
A company that inspires and fulfills your curiosity.
Using our unlimited passion for technology, content and services to deliver groundbreaking new excitement and entertainment, as only Sony can.
The mission of Southwest Airlines is dedication to the highest quality of customer service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and company spirit.
To become the world’s most loved, most flown, and most profitable airline.
To give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together.
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.
To be our customers’ favorite place and way to eat and drink.
To move with velocity to drive profitable growth and become an even better McDonald’s serving more customers delicious food each day around the world.
To be the worldwide leader in retail.
To give customers a wide assortment of their favorite products, Every Day Low Prices, guaranteed satisfaction, friendly service, convenient hours (24 hours, 7 days a week) and a great online shopping experience.
Refresh the world. Make a difference.
Our vision is to craft the brands and choice of drinks that people love, to refresh them in body & spirit. And done in ways that create a more sustainable business and better shared future that makes a difference in people’s lives, communities and our planet.
This tool is used to develop a vision statement – a clear picture of where the organization wants to be in the future. It helps leaders identify the vision “drivers” of the organization. [Purchase the PDF license]
A vision statement gives people a clear picture of what the organization is aiming for in a finite period of time – typically ten years or less. It needs to be sufficiently visionary to sustain peoples’ energies and dreams. It should be sufficiently concrete that it results in clarity, not confusion, about goals and objectives. The vision statement is always rooted in the organization’s purpose and values.
Appoint members of a team to develop the vision statement. This should include the senior officers of the organization. Members of the planning team should complete the homework assignment on the following pages and discuss their results. The agenda below can be used to guide the planning meeting.
Please think about and answer (in writing) the following questions. Be prepared to share your answers and your thinking – i.e., how you derived your answers – with the planning team. Feel free to provide additional information or thinking. Don’t feel constrained by the assignment. Rather, use it as a jumping off point.
The first step is always to decide on a time horizon. For some organizations, vision spans a ten-to-fifteen year period. But in others, a shorter horizon – three years – is just fine. At Teradyne, a fast-moving maker of software that monitors web performance, the time horizon was one year. Why? Because the software industry was moving so quickly its CEO didn’t see any value in planning beyond a 12-month time horizon.
Once you decide on a time horizon, the planning team needs to meet and have initial discussions about vision. Ask people to think about these questions in advance. (For this example, I’m assuming a typical time horizon of three years.)
Once everyone has discussed these questions, you can create a map, laying out the components of your emerging vision. Plotting them on paper enables people to visualize the emerging vision.
Related Tool: Streamlined Strategic Planning
LRI’s expert consultants assure you and your organization are thinking and acting strategically. Here are the specific ways we can help you: https://leading-resources.com/consulting/strategicplanning/