Mission or Vision? Why choose between them?

My coaching practice is a lot of fun at the same time that it is very intellectually stimulating for me. It gives me such golden opportunities for continuous learning side by side with charged-up, excited people, for I get to talk story about business (which, as you know, I’m fascinated by) with management and leadership teams from so many disciplines.

One of the facilitations I get called on to do pretty often is to revitalize mission statements and visioning sessions in a manner which incorporates the values of Managing with Aloha. I call them ‘Imiola Sessions, for the MWA value of ‘Imi ola guides the process I use in the facilitation.

I know there are a lot of people who dread mission and vision sessions, and I was really intrigued by the evangelism that sprouted up when Guy Kawasaki wrote Art of the Start, and his ChangeThis manifesto of the same name. In his manifesto, Kawasaki renounced mission statements in favor of mantras which help companies “make meaning” instead. I was cheering for him too, writing about it here on Talking Story. I really like the way he talks about making meaning, saying that there are 3 ways to do so:

The first is to increase the quality of life of your customer.

The second way to make meaning is to right a wrong.

The third way to make meaning is to perpetuate something good.

However I’ve never renounced mission or vision: they are way too important in my MWA business model. In that model, we harness all 4 things for the power they can release in a company: values, mission, vision, and mantra.

Like many managers, I used to dread mission and vision discussions too. But not anymore; not since Managing with Aloha. Now these are among my favorite coaching sessions, for I learn just as much as I may teach, and usually about things I never imagined we’d talk about at all. Believe it or not, they are fun: the joy of the process is a purposeful strategy in my facilitation, for missions and visions evolve, and I want the teams I coach to adopt the process as well as the result. It’s extremely rewarding to witness management teams transform into leadership teams right before my eyes in the process; when we end those sessions we all walk out of the room ready to take on the world, come what may.

The article I’ve written for Lifehack.org today answers the question we have to address in the first few minutes of these ‘Imiola Sessions to give us a common language and understanding: What’s the difference between Mission and Vision?

As I said, I’m asked to do my ‘Imi ola Sessions very frequently, and if you have an example of a great mission or vision statement you can share with us which is aligned with the difference I cite in the article I’d love to hear from you.

As I write this, I realize there is more I can share with you about ‘Imiola Sessions and I’ll begin to work on writing up more on this in future Talking Story posts. For now, two more pointers:

On Come Gather Round recently, Dick Richards had written a good article called, Worthy Visions Pass One Simple Test.

AlwaysOn published the first 5 of 10 excerpts from a presentation given by Guy Kawasaki to an audience at Autodesk’s ‘Realize Your Ideas’ tour this past summer. You can take this link to the first one, Rule No. 1 Make Meaning, and find links to the others at the bottom of the article: Make Mantra, Jump to the Next Curve, Get Going, and Niche Thyself.

Related Talking Story posts:
When Competition is a Positive Force (Update: a follow-up to this post)
Both of these next two were written about a year ago, in October of 2004:
Check out Art of the Start

More on Making Meaning

Article on Lifehack.org today: What’s the difference between Mission and Vision?

The Talking Story mission and vision category and index.


  1. says

    I’ve seen myriad schemas for talking about mission, vision, etc. Most are useful. The truly important thing is that the people involved in the process use the same language and have the same understanding.
    This is what works for me: (1) To describe vison, mission, and values as different aspects of creating a sense of purpose. (2) Vision is a description of the reality you are trying to create for others–in the world at large. (3) Mission describes the business you are in. (4) Values describe the abstract qualities, such as courage, service, etc., that you must prize in order to fulfill your mission and achieve your vision.
    I then go one step farther and ask for what I call a “customary” — a description of behavior that is consistent with all of the above. Especially behavior toward one another, toward customers or clients, and also in important processeses such as decision-making, conflict resolution, etc.
    The last is the step that is most often left out.
    None of this is *truth*, just a useful framework and language.

  2. says

    Thanks for the post on lifehack, Rosa. I love the questions you listed for helping clients to discover their passionate vision. I referenced them on Win-Win Web today. Just wonderful.
    – EM