A Reader Asks… Mission vs. Vision

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A LYS Assistant Principal asks the following:

SC,
I am seeking your help once again. I am on a committee with my principal to help develop a mission and vision for the school. We keep getting confused between the two. My principal has assigned me the duty to simplify the definition so we can all understand, because she is confused as well. Since you always seem to solve all my dilemmas, can you please help?

SC Response 1. Great to hear from you. 2. No problem.

Many people use the two terms interchangeably.  But though they are similar, they are not the same.

Perhaps the easiest way to wrap your mind around the distinctions is this:

The pursuit and accomplishment of your mission, over time, should position you to realize your vision.

Your mission statement articulates:

A. What we do… B. How we do it… C. How we know we are doing it… D. Where we are going…

Here is an example:

We take hills, by always marching forward. As we occupy more real estate, we will soon possess all of Big School Mountain.

Over time your mission statement will evolve.  After all, what is our mission after we persevered and possess all of Big School Mountain?

Your vision statement articulates:

A. Where we want to be… B. What we value… C. What our future holds… D. What inspires us…

Here is an example:

Our ability to take hills protects us from our enemies and allows us live free, under the premise that all men are created equal.

Vision statements represent who you are at your core.

Here are my suggestions.

Both are important but in the short run, the mission statement is more important.  Get the organization moving in the right direction.  Over time, with purposeful action, conversation and reflection, the core of who you are as an organization will begin to emerge and you will be in a position to better articulate the vision of the group. 

Edit, edit, edit.  Long and verbose statements are quickly forgotten.  Each statement should be concise, concrete and visceral.  Consider this, The Declaration of Independence was only 1,137 words.  And it forged a nation and reshaped an empire.

Finally, the development of mission and vision statements often requires facilitation and support.  There is an art to teasing out the central ideas from a group.  I have done this in scores of schools and districts. Call me if I can help.

Think. Work. Achieve. Your turn…

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