Mission, vision, and values – table of contents:
“We are stubborn on vision. We are flexible on details….” – Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, once said. In his view, entrepreneurs should know where they are going and why. At the same time, they should maintain a certain amount of flexibility because if the path to the destination stops working, they should change the path without changing the destination. And to find the path, they need vision, mission, and values.
What are the mission, vision, and values?
If we were to build a pyramid of vision, mission, and values, we would place the vision at the top of the pyramid, the mission right below it, and the values at the very bottom – its foundation. Why is that? To understand, let’s explain what the vision, mission, and values are.
The vision is an aspirational, idealized, unattainable picture of reality. It is what gives direction to the company’s activities and answers the question “What kind of world do I want to build as an organization?”. And this is where any “big” answer can fall. For example: “to live in a world where everyone has equal access to education.”
The mission, on the other hand, is a bit more specific, but not yet as precise as strategic or operational goals, which refer to specific activities. The mission specifies how we will try to achieve the vision. For example: “To build the world’s largest educational platform used by millions of people.
Values complement the vision and mission. They, at the operational level, determine the behavior and decisions made by organizations. The value can be, for example, loyalty, and it may be manifested by not doing business with competitors of the customer for whom we are currently performing a service.
Mission in practice. 12 examples
With the theory behind us, it’s worth looking at examples of actual company missions. Perhaps they will inspire you to define your own mission, and they will certainly give you an idea of what a mission should look like – at least on paper.
Here are the examples:
- Slack: Make people’s working lives simpler, more pleasant, and more productive.
- Walmart: Save people money so they can live better.
- IKEA: Create a better everyday life for many people.
- Tesla: Accelerate the advent of sustainable transport.
- TED: Spread ideas, foster community, and create impact.
- Microsoft: To empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.
- LinkedIn: To connect the world’s professionals to make them more productive and successful.
- Facebook: Give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together.
- BBC: Act in the public interest, serving all audiences through the provision of impartial, high-quality, and distinctive output and services that inform, educate, and entertain.
- Kickstarter: Help bring creative projects to life.
- Samsung: Devote its talent and technology to creating superior products and services that contribute to a better global society.
- Coca-Cola: To refresh the world and make a difference.
Conclusions. Pay attention to…
Analyzing the above mission statements, we can draw three conclusions:
- Clarity and simplicity. In the mission statements of many companies, such as Walmart, IKEA, and Kickstarter, you can see the clarity and simplicity of the goals. These mission statements focus on one key objective, which makes them easy to understand and remember. When defining your own mission statement, it is a good idea to keep it clear and concise.
- Focus on customer value. The mission statements of companies like Slack, Microsoft, and Coca-Cola focus on the value the company provides to its customers. It’s important for the mission statement to highlight the benefits.
- Global meaning. Some missions, such as TED’s or the BBC’s, emphasize the global importance of their activities and are aspirational in nature. They look to the future and remind us to set long-term goals. This is another important feature of a mission statement – it should inspire and motivate an organization.
Some mission statements, such as TED’s or the BBC’s, emphasize the global importance of their activities and are aspirational in nature. They look to the future and remind us to set long-term goals. This is another important feature of a mission statement – it should inspire and motivate an organization.
Values vs. reality
It may seem that vision, mission, and values have little to do with the business and that they are merely a marketing ploy to create a better image in customers’ eyes. Nothing could be further from the truth. Mission, vision, and values affect the day-to-day operations of companies as well as their products and services. Let’s examine Buffer, Google, and Netflix to see how an organization’s values translate into business reality.
BufferBuffer is an American company founded in 2010 that is best known for two things. First, for its product – a platform for managing social media profiles. And second, for its value of complete transparency. But what does it mean? In the case of Buffer, it means transparent salaries.
Everyone in the company knows how much other employees earn and what the compensation rules are. Without exception. This includes the company’s founder and CEO. Moreover, this data is public. So, if you want to know how much people earn in each position at Buffer, you can do so. Just visit this page and read.
Expenses are also public
But transparency at Buffer goes beyond salaries. The startup is also eager to share other statistics and information from within the company. In August 2023, for example, the startup’s chief operating officer shared its cost structure in an official announcement.
She wrote that over the past nine years, the largest increase in Buffer’s expenses has been employee-related, as the company’s team has grown from 34 to 78 members over the years. Other expense categories that have eaten up a significant portion of the company’s budget include hosting, marketing, and taxes.
The benefits of transparency
Now you may be wondering why Buffer is so eager to share information that most companies don’t usually brag about. There are several reasons, four in fact. Joel Gascoigne, Buffer’s CEO, shared all of them back in 2014 in a blog post.
“For us, transparency came quite naturally. Leo and I always felt very comfortable and excited to share our learnings. It helped us get more feedback about decisions and it was a way to help others who are getting started” – wrote Joel Gascoigne and presented four benefits of being a transparent organization:
- Transparency helps build trust not only among team members or potential job candidates but also among customers.
- Transparency fosters innovation because in a transparent organizational culture, the flow of information is not only faster, but also wider, and this promotes decision-making at different levels: from management to regular employees.
- Transparency helps to treat people fairly because, for example, when employees know the pay rules, they have an equal chance of getting a raise – they know what they have to do to get it.
- Transparency makes others open up and willing to give feedback that can be used to grow the company.
Employees have long considered Google one of the best places to work. This is evidenced by the reviews the tech giant receives from them on Glassdoor. As many as 40,000 Google employees would recommend working for the company to their friends. So it’s not surprising that this powerful American company receives more than a million applications and resumes each year.
Google’s “ten things” philosophy
How to build such a reputation? When Google’s founders started the company, they created the “ten things” philosophy. In the context of building an employee-friendly culture, the ninth thing is interesting: “You can be serious without a suit.”
What does this mean? First and foremost, it means that challenges should entertain, delight, and bring joy. That’s why when we hear about working at Google, the most common statements are: nice atmosphere, calm, and creativity. Google’s owners long ago came to the conclusion that the best ideas and most interesting solutions emerge in a good atmosphere. So how do they keep this good atmosphere? Let’s take a look.
„Without a suit” in practice
„You can be serious without a suit” manifests itself in many ways. Take, for example, the brand’s distinctive vocabulary. Google employees are not simply “employees,” but Googlers. They create their own community, which gives them a sense of belonging. Another manifestation of “Without a suit…” really makes you think.
It’s about freedom. It turns out that Googlers can spend 20% of their weekly working time developing their own projects. This allows them to get away from the grim reality and work on something more creative – to the benefit of their employer. One example of an after-hours project is Gmail, which is now used by 1.8 billion people.
One of Netflix’s core values is inclusiveness and the need to create an environment (not only at work, but also outside of work) where all people – regardless of their background, identity, sexual orientation, ability, age, or gender – feel accepted, respected, and included.
Inclusiveness on the silver screen
It’s easy to see that Netflix lives and breathes inclusiveness – just turn on the TV. In almost every production that viewers can find on this streaming platform, various social issues are touched upon – from racial issues, through patriarchy and feminism, to LGBT communities.
Beyond the screen, Netflix’s inclusiveness can be seen in its employment structure. For example, women already make up 47.1% of the company’s total workforce, and nearly half of Netflix’s leadership positions are held by women. Similarly, half of the company’s team is made up of people of Asian and Hispanic descent.
Investment in diversity
And that’s not all. The streaming service also launched the $100 million Netflix for Creative Equity fund to support the professional development of people from underrepresented communities around the world. In two years, the company has already committed $29 million to the cause, investing in more than 100 programs with 80 organizations in 35 countries.
The examples described above prove that mission, vision, and values are not just empty words carved in stone, but living elements that shape the daily business decisions made by organizations.
If you still have difficulties in defining the mission, vision, and values of your own company, it is worth analyzing a few of your favorite enterprises. Such an analysis will help you put your thoughts on the right track, and also provide you with a lot of inspiration.