How to Create a Vision Statement That Actually Means Something
Have you ever wondered why companies create vision statements?
After all, many of these lofty words live on walls or websites, never making their way into the day-to-day lives of real people.
These companies are made of humans (at least for now) and as we all know, humans crave purpose and direction.
Most of us want to know the thing we’re doing will eventually make a difference. Otherwise, what’s the point?
Vision statements are meant to be the north stars of business, guiding us towards something bigger than ourselves.
Unfortunately, many managers struggle with turning those north stars into next steps, which is why vision statements often get a bad rap and eventually become empty promises to employees and customers.
Most companies start with a vision (where they want to go or the future they want to help create), a mission (what they’re doing today to create that future), and values (what they believe and how they will act while carrying out their mission).
Sure, this is a solid starting point, but things quickly become murky.
How do you turn these words into measurable action?
Once you draft out a vision statement, you can reverse engineer the steps needed to work towards your vision.
There are countless frameworks to help break things down into actionable steps, but here are a few popular ones to get started:
- Objectives and Key Results (OKRs)
- S.M.A.R.T. Goals
- Think Big, Act Small, Move Quick (BSQ)
- Warren Buffet’s “2 Lists” Strategy
To give a concrete example, here is my personal vision statement I recently created in order to guide my professional life:
A future where work is whatever you want it to be, no matter who you are.
(Yes, I’m one of those weirdos that has created their own vision statement).
Let’s break it down:
A future where: It describes a future-state that doesn’t exist yet.
Work is whatever you want it to be: In this future, people will have control over what they do for a living.
No matter who you are: This future is inclusive and doesn’t only apply to people who don’t identify as straight, cis-gendered, white guys (i.e. me).
I’ll be honest — these words didn’t magically appear overnight. I’ve gone through multiple attempts and countless drafts to really hone in on the words that mean the most to me.
Just reading this makes me giddy, which is a great sign because if it doesn’t excite you, there’s a good chance you won’t stick with it years, months, or even weeks from now.
This vision statement gives me clarity around the professional opportunities I should find or create. It acts as a guardrail and gives me an important question to ask myself when I come across future opportunities:
Will this help me work towards my vision?
If an opportunity does push me towards my vision, I know I should strongly consider devoting time and energy to it.
If it doesn’t, then it will probably be more of a distraction than anything else.