How to Create a Vision Statement That Gives Your Company a Clear Future Destination

Leaders today have a particularly tough job articulating a vision statement for their company.

Think of everything a vision needs to convey and accomplish:

  • Direction. Your vision must communicate the company’s value in the market and describe the future impact your organization could have on the world. It must act as a blueprint for where the company is going, providing direction for both big and small decisions.
  • Motivation. Your company vision must provide employees with a reason to act, inspiring them to achieve the company’s mission. When your employees believe in the vision of your company, they can feel a greater sense of ownership and motivation for progress.
  • Alignment. Businesses comprise many different people with many different perspectives. They should all see the vision and how to implement in a coordinated and complementary way. Your vision thus directs the harmony of separate actions a toward a common goal.


A Good Company Vision is a Guide Through Times of Change

Now think of how difficult it is to boil down today’s complex businesses idea. Today, we’re reimagining every aspect of life with and introducing an explosion on new ideas across energy, entertainment, retail, medicine, even space travel.

In this environment, the market demands that you have a clear and compelling a vision – conveying precisely what better future you are building and why it matters. So, leaders are constantly reformulating and re-explaining where their company vision.

Without a clear and compelling vision, it’s easy to lose sight of where your company is going. You can easily miss the mark on emerging opportunities or being perceived as just a cog in the system, another me-too company marching forward simply to make money.


4 Common Mistakes of Ineffective Vision Statements with Examples

We believe a vision statement should reflect the ultimate impact your company should have on the world. However, even the biggest companies sometimes end up with ineffective vision statements (even if they do sound cool) because they don’t create a view of the world that is easy to grasp. Vision statements that are not crafted carefully end up being only partially useful, totally ignorable or outright misguiding.

Consider the four most common traps we find companies fall into when creating their vision statements:

  1. The corporate selfie. This type of vision statement is focused inward. It’s all about what your company wants to become — not the impact you want to have on the world. Take Pepsi’s vision statement: “Be the global leader in convenient foods and beverages by winning with purpose.” It’s a great goal, no doubt. But it leaves us wondering — to what end?
  2. The utilitarianThis statement is purely functional. It lacks aspiration and is unmotivating. Take Albertsons’ infamous mission statement from 2013: “To create a shopping experience that pleases our customers; a workplace that creates opportunities and a great working environment for our associates; and a business that achieves financial success.” We certainly hope that Albertsons was doing all these things. In fact, we hope most companies aim to achieve these things. However, this vision tells us nothing about Albertson’s underlying vision, let alone what the company actually does.
  3. The vague. In general, NASA does some pretty cool stuff. Their vision statement is: “We reach for new heights and reveal the unknown for the benefit of humankind.” This is motivational, but we find that it falls short on other fronts. How does this ultimately help? Why does this matter? What problems does this address? Like other lukewarm vision statements, this one feels ambivalent.
  4. The utopianThe Coca-Cola Company’s vision statement is: “Our vision is to craft the brands and choice of drinks that people love, to refresh them in body & spirit. And done in ways that create a more sustainable business and better shared future that makes a difference in people’s lives, communities and our planet.” While this is admirable, we find that utopian vision statements like this are too grandiose. They feel impossible to fully achieve and therefore they are hard to believe in.

These aren’t the only companies that have fallen into the pitfalls of a weak vision statement and they certainly won’t be the last.

Your Company Vision Should Describe a Better Place

To create a vision statement with the power to guide your company, you have to use a little imagination. Instead of thinking about a traditional vision statement, with its glut of uninspiring examples and myriad competing definitions, shift your perspective a bit. Try describing a vision of a world that doesn’t yet exist and that you are committed to help build.

Your company vision should describe a better place — and we mean that literally. Your vision should always be a “where” statement that paints a picture of what you want the world to look like because your product or company exists.

What Cause Do You Stand For?

Because vision statements have become so watered down and self-focused, Simon Sinek in his new book, The Infinite Game, recommends a new way to approach creating a vision statement, which he calls advancing a Just Cause.

Here is how Sinek explains it himself: “A Just Cause is a specific vision of a future state that does not yet exist; a future state so appealing that people are willing to make sacrifices in order to help advance toward that vision…. It defines where we are going. It describes the world we hope to live in and will commit to help build.”

Sinek adds: “For a Just Cause to serve as an effective invitation, the words must paint a specific and tangible picture of the kind of impact we will make or what exactly a better world would look like. Only when we can imagine in our mind’s eye the exact version of the world and organization or leader hopes to advance toward will we know to which organization or to which leader we want to commit our energies and ourselves.”

This approach hits on all three of our necessary components of a strong vision:

It provides direction by focusing your company squarely on the future. You’re defining a strategic direction by identifying a future world that your business will help create. If you cast your vision too narrowly, you can accidentally focus on your solution capabilities, missing the chance to define a bigger picture opportunity.

It builds motivation by focusing your company on the right audiences. You’re focusing on a future that’s desirable enough to inspire hard work and sacrifice in pursuit of its attainment. This will attract and motivate employees who believe in your vision, and it will help you consistently focus on the right audiences: those whom you’re fighting for.

It promotes broad alignment that strengthens your leadership role. A vision statement should look beyond one company, or even one industry. It sees opportunity as ever-expanding, and competitors as worthy rivals. A Just Cause frees up your company to create plans and strategies toward your future, focused on an existential purpose that’s understood and envisioned, and that is ever-more inclusive.

Creating a vision statement that speaks to the core of your business is tough but important. When crafted properly, a vision will act as the north star that guides your business through change, turbulence and opportunity. It’s a common purpose for your customers, employees and strategy to rally around. And it will help station you above the white noise of the business world and make your business more human.

Your vision statement may only be a few small words, but those words have the power to set your company apart from the rest.