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Do you know the difference?

There’s a bit of an alphabet soup going on when we talk about some of the statements that an organization must have in place to get all employees marching to the same beat. You need a mission statement, vision statements, core values, guiding principles, brand promise, purpose, and more, right?! Are these important? Yes. Is it detrimental if we don’t have them? Maybe. Would it be common sense to take the time to develop and communicate them? Yes. If you want to be in business, you (and your employees) probably ought to know why and what you’re trying to do.

Bain wraps up all of these various statements into a nice little package – because they are intertwined and support each other – with the following:

A Mission Statement defines the company’s business, its objectives, and its approach to reach those objectives. A Vision Statement describes the desired future position of the company. Elements of Mission and Vision Statements are often combined to provide a statement of the company’s purposes, goals, and values.

The mission statement describes the business you are in, i.e., what you’re doing and who you’re serving, while the vision statement defines where the company wants to go in the future. By the way, I love this tip from bplans about mission statements (link also includes great examples of mission statements)…

To test the value of a draft of your mission statement, take a step back and ask yourself whether or not the same words could apply to any other business; and whether anybody could identify your business from hearing your mission statement.

… although, I must say, after reading the examples, I don’t think this is a hard-and-fast rule. Many of the statements could apply to any of the companies’ competitors.

An inspirational and aspirational statement, your corporate vision not only outlines what the company is trying to achieve near-term and long-term but also guides decision-making processes and your subsequent, resultant course of action. It will answer the question, “Where do you see the company in five years? or in ten years?”

Your customer experience vision will also be inspirational and aspirational and will outline what you see as the future state of the customer experience. It will briefly describe the experience you plan to deliver. And it will serve as a guide to help choose future courses of action. It should align with your corporate vision, or they may be one and the same.

Core values are the fundamental beliefs of the organization; they really describe or define the culture. Core values are broad statements that guide your employees, identifying right and wrong, good and bad, and how to interact with each other and with customers.

Guiding principles, on the other hand, are more specific in how they guide the organization through everything it does. They are more prescriptive in nature. There’s often confusion between values and principles: aren’t they the same? In a way, yes; they get the same message across but in a different way. Principles are objective “truths” or “laws,” while values are subjective and provide a sense of direction.

The company’s purpose is its reason for being, the why. It’s typically stated in such a way that helps employees understand who the business is trying to impact and in what way. Employees are inspired when they know they are doing something for the good of something or someone else. Define the who and the what, and you’ve got your why.

Your brand promise is the expectation you set with your customers; in essence, it’s a promise you make to your customers about the experience and the benefit they can expect from engaging with your brand. Everything you and your employees do should reflect this promise. It’s a combination of the brand purpose and the reality of what the brand can deliver. In most cases, it defines the benefits a customer can expect to receive when experiencing your brand at every touch point.

Hope that’s helpful. Here’s the thing with each of these: it’s not enough to just define them. They must be communicated and understood; employees then need to live and breath them and refer to them every day.

From my very first day as an entrepreneur, I’ve felt the only mission worth pursuing in business is to make people’s lives better. -Richard Branson

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