OKR

How to create a mission and vision that anyone can understand

31st July 2017 · 8 min read

Mission Vision

A rarely acknowledged part of making a company succeed is knowing how to create a mission and vision that anyone can understand.

Amazon’s founder and CEO, Jeff Bezos, is one of the masters of this art. From his legendary annual letter to shareholders that memorializes the idea that it’s still Day 1 to setting internal priorities like “Getting Our House In Order” and “Get Big Fast Baby” that defined entire years, these kinds of rhetorical flourishes can seem unnecessary. But in truth, they were crucial to Amazon’s growth in its early days. From Eugene Wei, who worked on the product there:

What stands out is that I can recite these from memory even now, over a decade later, and so could probably everyone who worked at Amazon those years… Here’s a good test of how strategically aligned a company is. Walk up to anyone in the company in the hallway and ask them if they know what their current top priority or mission is. Can they recite it from memory?

At Perdoo, we couldn’t agree more with the idea that “time spent coming up with the right words to package a key concept in a memorable way [is] time well spent.”

We would go even further and say that if you and your employees don’t have answers ready to all of the following questions, something’s missing:

  • What is your mission?
  • What is your vision?
  • Why?
  • Are your mission and vision clear, inspirational, something that you really believe in?
  • How do you know if you’re on track to getting there?
  • What’s your Ultimate Goal—your real reason for existing?

This last question may be the most important. We believe that mission and vision, the way they’re ordinarily used, are too nebulous of concepts. They’re used many different ways in practice, and they’re not too good at standing on their own. Because of how confusing they can be, teams end up unable to answer questions—and that’s a dangerous situation to be in as a startup.

We believe that the Ultimate Goal, as a framework for thinking about this, can help fix some of these problems—but first, we’ll discuss what can go wrong with mission and vision.

Vision and mission are dangerous when they’re confusing

The conflicting definitions and ideas of the terms mission and vision can produce a lot of confusion, especially when they turn into your classic “mission and vision statements.”

Maybe your vision statement somehow doubles as a statement of the principles you hold dear in your day-to-day work. Maybe your mission statement claims that your company’s main goal is something that really can’t be measured in any objective way.

You’ve certainly seen these terms used casually and interchangeably—when companies do that, they lose their power to motivate and inspire:

  • Our mission is to develop, deploy, and manage a diverse set of scalable and strategic knowledge management tools to serve our customers, improving the possibility of overall satisfaction among our diverse customer profiles.
  • By creating value for our customers, we create value for our shareholders. We use our expertise to create transport-related products and services of superior quality, safety and environmental care for demanding customers in selected segments. We work with energy, passion, and respect for the individual.
  • To fill the earth with the light and warmth of hospitality

These kinds of statements are all too common. They’re vague, broad, and meaningless statements that don’t speak to the uniqueness of the businesses that came up. In the above example, one is made-up, one is for a major car producer, and one is for a major hotel chain—and if you can figure out which is which, then congratulations! You’ve accomplished a remarkable feat.

How a bad mission + vision affects your team

To dig into a specific example of mission and vision, imagine you’re the German coffee shop, Bondi.

You’re sitting in a meeting at Bondi headquarters, drinking some Bondi coffee, as you come up with statements for your vision and mission that will motivate your team for the years to come.

Most companies put in this position, end up coming up with some drab-sounding cliches that don’t really say anything about their business and why it’s unique.

  • Mission: “We will become our customers’ favorite place to drink coffee.”
  • Vision: “To deliver through a strategy centering on an exceptional customer experience through the 5 P’s—People, Products, Place, Price, and Promotion.

You’ve heard companies say things like that before, put them up on posters around the office. “Our mission is to create value for our customers.” “Our vision is to use our expertise in x industry to create y products for our customers in z segments.”

The problem here is that the mission is vague and the vision is not measurable. You can’t gauge how well you’re “meeting the 5 P’s.” You can’t measure the “utilization of your expertise.”

Your team is left with a bunch of vague ideas, but no barometer with which to understand:

  • what they should actually do
  • how they should do it
  • whether they’re moving in the right direction

This leads to stasis, to uninspired employees, and to a team that can’t get on the same page about what it needs to do to succeed in the long-term.

Mission + vision = ultimate goal

At Perdoo, we think about mission and vision a little differently. We think of them as two parts of something greater: your ultimate goal. We even encourage our customers to turn their mission & vision into their Ultimate Goal when they’re using Perdoo. When used correctly, they can serve as powerful, meaningful, motivators that really inspire teams to great work.

Your ultimate goal is made up of two parts—a mission and a vision.

Your mission describes why your company exists. The spark of imagination that made you decide to build a company in the first place. Your mission is your purpose—it’s inspiring, motivating, and gives the work that you do a higher purpose.

Your vision, on the other hand, describes the things that you want to accomplish on your way to achieving that mission. It’s the tactical goals that you need to execute on if you want to fulfill the terms of your mission statement.

For example, our mission at Perdoo is to help companies reach their full potential. Our vision is made up of the measurable

Help companies reach their full potential

Our mission—our purpose— is to help companies reach their full potential, and we’ll know that we’re on our way to reaching that mission if we accomplish our vision:

  • help at least 5 customers grow to become market leaders/global brands
  • achieve 33%+ market share in the goal management space
  • grow 10 of our customers to over 1000 Perdoo users each

The entire team knows what Perdoo is trying to do, and they know how they can contribute to that goal.

Let’s look at how an Ultimate Goal—made up of a mission and a vision—might work for a cafe like Bondi.

Imagine a different kind of mission for a coffee shop like Bondi. One that’s measurable, actionable, and clear:

  • “We will bring affordable, great tasting coffee to Berlin and beyond.”

With this kind of clear and tangible mission, you can imagine the vision (or Key Results) that might accompany it:

  • “We will become sell 33% of the coffee in Berlin in the next 5 years.”
  • “We will be in the top rated coffee shops in Berlin with 90% positive reviews.”
  • “We will sell 1,000 tons of coffee beans across Germany.”

Each one of these, of course, will then be broken down into smaller quarterly and annual goals.

goal timeline

How your Ultimate Goal will break down into responsibilities for leaders, managers, and employees

Being in the top-rated Berlin coffeeshops could be broken down into a particular number of reviews on sites like Yelp, local publications, and guidebooks. Selling 1,000 tons of coffee beans could be broken down into setting up web infrastructure for ordering the beans, etc.

The point is that this kind of mission and vision, when combined into an Ultimate Goal, gives the people that work at Bondi a clear set of priorities and a path for fulfilling them.

How to find your Ultimate Goal

Often, it can be easier to figure out the Key Results of your Ultimate Goal before you can nail down a mission.

It makes sense—the measurable goals that you think of accomplishing in the next few years are more tangible and easily accessible than imagining the kind of company that you want to be in 5.

Rather than resist this, you and your team should go down the path of least resistance (at least at first) and start out by brainstorming your vision. At Perdoo, we call it triangulating on the spirit of the objective:

  1. Get your team together, whether that’s in-person, on video chat, or in Slack.
  2. Ask everyone to set aside some time to brainstorm a pile of different Key Results. These are the tangible goals that your organization wants to accomplish in the upcoming years—market share you want to gain, the number of customers you want to serve, features and products you want to launch. Make sure your team knows this is a brainstorming exercise—they should feel free to think outside the box and go a little crazy with these.
  3. With whatever tool your team used to generate these ideas and write them down, start whittling them down. Take the ideas and categorize or sort them out into groups—pick a subset that really nails the kind of vision that the company is about.
  4. Use the subset of Key Results that you’ve chosen, and then go back to your team and brainstorm the mission that they might point towards. What is the larger purpose of a company that actually achieves all of these Key Results? What is that organization’s Ultimate Goal?
  5. If your mission is something that people on the team are excited about, then you have your Ultimate Goal. If it’s not, then go back to Step 3 and take a fresh look at the other Key Results you brainstormed.

When you give people permission to express themselves in this fashion and then figure out your mission by working through the results rigorously, you get to carve your company’s Ultimate goal out of an organic mass of possibilities.

You’re not imposing a mission upon your team—a bad decision no matter what size your company is at the moment, nor are you leaving it up to groupthink.

In truth, the whittling down of the possibilities is just as important here as the brainstorming, and that’s something that a founder/CEO should be responsible for.

Getting started with your Ultimate Goal

Getting your team behind your Ultimate Goal starts with making sure everyone knows what it is. Your Ultimate Goal should be publicly available, prominent, and easy to find.

To add your Ultimate Goal to Perdoo, click the + in the top-right corner of the dashboard and pick Add Objective:

Add Objective

In the pop-up that follows, fill in the following fields:

  • Name: your mission
  • Owner: your organization.
  • End date: 5-10~ years from today

Ultimate goal

After you’ve added your mission, you’ll see it appear at the very top of the Maps dashboard. Beneath it, you’ll need to lay out your vision—the Key Results that tell you that you’re making your mission a reality. You’ve now created your Ultimate Goal.

perdoo-maps-ultimate-goal

For more on setting up your Ultimate Goal in Perdoo, check out our Support Center article.

To learn more about creating OKRs in general, check out our eBook on writing great Objectives and Key Results.

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