There's a Difference Between Your Company's Vision and Its Mission. Here's How to Achieve Them Both.

Be mindful about where your company is and where it ought to be.

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While most companies have mission, vision and value statements, few companies place these statements at the center of everything they do. Even fewer make these statements the driving force behind their present activities or their initiatives for the future.

In our book, Total Alignment, we have presented a systematic process for connecting the mission, vision and values to the activities of every job holder in the organization thus aligning their contributions with its intent.

Alignment is necessary if you are serious about reaching the high goals expressed in your mission and vision. Your mission and vision must not only be well-defined, but you need a process in place to close your mission gap and vision gap. What are these gaps? To clarify, let's take a closer look at the definition of mission and vision.

Mission and vision

We define mission as the reason for existence. Your mission is the motivating force behind what you do. Your mission is your purpose. A worthwhile mission is one that serves others. Your vision, however, is the picture of your success in the future. It is the picture of success five to ten years out. Imagine it's ten years from now, and you have succeeded in delivering your mission, what would that success look like? How would you describe it? Mission and vision each have an important yet distinct role to play.

We have often seen mission and vision statements that are overlapping. There is no need to state how successful you want to be in the mission statement, and there is no need to state what your business does in the vision statement. Both statements of mission and vision should be clear and inspiring for the workforce. Their value lies in their clarity and their ability to motivate your people.

Related: When Your Business Is About to Hit a Wall, Figure Out What You Need to Change

What is vision gap?

Your company achieves its vision through the operation of your existing processes, such as the recruitment process, the training process, the sales process, the production process, the delivery process, the post delivery process, etc. With the right processes in place and adequate financial strength, achievement of vision is possible.

Often, vision statements are so audacious that existing processes, no matter how well executed, will fall short of delivering the intended results. If your vision statement implies doubling or tripling the size of your company, you will have to overcome the distance between what you can achieve through your existing processes and what your vision requires. This is what we call the vision gap. You overcome your vision gap through strategic initiatives that serve to create new processes. The following questions can help you determine the extent of your vision gap.

  • What is the size limit that you can achieve through organic growth of your existing businesses to reach your vision for, say ten years, from now?
  • What is the delta growth you will need to achieve to close the gap through in-organic growth?
  • How will you finance your organic growth to achieve its limit?
  • How will you finance your inorganic growth to close the gap?

Closing the vision gap

To close the vision gap, you will need to consider both the organic growth and the inorganic growth. Here are some suggestions for reaching your vision through organic growth:

  • Improve your main product, service or market technology to capture new customers, in current or new geographic markets.
  • Improve a basket of products or services to introduce to existing and new geographic markets.
  • Use synergistic strength among the basket of products or services to capture market share.
  • Modify or develop new products/services into existing customer segments and later into new markets.

Here are some suggestions for closing the vision gap through inorganic growth:

  • Acquire a major or equal competitor and apply your know-how to manage a larger organization. A merger could work also, provided you maintain control.
  • Diversify with related new products or services in order to compete in selected segments of your business where growth has been slow. This can also improve sales of other segments of your business.
  • Diversify with unrelated new products or services that serve your mission- targeting present customers with present distribution channels. You can augment sales with new products of cyclical sales patterns. This diversification can also increase revenue from your current products or services.
  • Explore backward integration. In other words, move into an area that currently serves as your suppliers. Consider purchasing a supplier or establishing a subsidiary company. This strategy can also enhance your supply chain and improve the quality of raw materials or inputs into your production.
  • Explore forward integration. In other words, enter into an area that is the customer of your products or services. Consider acquiring companies, establishing production facilities, wholesale systems or retail outlets. This strategy will enable you improve sales and increase stability in production by exercising greater control over marketing and better coordination between distribution channels and manufacturing.

What is the mission gap?

You are currently delivering your mission using today's technology and infrastructure. Mission usually doesn't change with time. When your vision window is five, ten or more years in the future, you will still be delivering your mission. However, as technology or infrastructure are bound to change, you might need to deliver your purpose in a different way. The difference between how you deliver your mission today versus in ten years is what we call the mission gap. For example, if you are in the retail business, most probably in ten years from now you will be selling to your customers through new channels and in a different way.

Here are some questions to help you determine the extent of your mission gap:

  • Will your mission still be understood and relevant ten years from now?
  • Who will your customers be in ten years? What demographics & geography?
  • How will your mission serve these customers in ten years?
  • What products or services will deliver your mission to these customers in ten years using tomorrow's technology, and how different will that be from today?
  • How will these products or services be delivered to your customers in ten years using tomorrow's infrastructure and how different will that be from today?
  • How will you acquire or develop the needed technology?
  • How will you acquire or develop the needed infrastructure?

Closing the mission gap

Closing the mission gap requires developing a new model for delivering your mission in ten years, a model that considers tomorrow's technology and infrastructure. This will require you to be cognizant of the trends in technology and infrastructure and projections of your future customers' demographics and consumption habits.

Mission and vision gaps in strategic planning process

While most companies have a mission and a vision, they are not at the center of those companies' planning process and are consequently ignored. While the strategic planning emphasis is usually placed on growth, competitive strategy and on capturing new markets, few companies ascertain whether their strategy is adequate to deliver their vision. We strongly recommend adding the concept of closing the mission and vision gaps to your planning process. Not only will it increase the probability of success but will also serve as a key instrument for aligning your human talent on the road to success.

Riaz Khadem and Linda Khadem

Business Strategy Experts

Riaz Khadem is the founder and CEO of Infotrac, a U.S.-based consulting firm that specializes in aligning and transforming organizations. Linda Khadem is Vice President and Corporate Counstel for Infotrac. They are the co-authors of Total Alignment (Entrepreneur Press 2017) and each posssess more than 25 years of experience in alignment and strategy deployment for organizations in Europe and North America.

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