How to Write a Great Vision Statement

Most vision statements I’ve seen in fact aren’t vision statements. They are aspirations, inspirations, or slogans. Something businesses would publish on their websites. But nowhere close to being a vision in the sense of this definition:

Vision can best be defined as an organization’s desired state at a certain point in the future.

Function: It paints a picture that engages and motivates people.

Characteristics: It addresses the hearts and brains of key stakeholder groups.

In my experience, the sweet spot of a great vision lies where three balanced pairs of elements overlap: Heart & Brain, Detail & Aspiration, and Purpose & Measurability.

The three pairs of a balanced vision

Heart & Brain

A great vision touches your heart and brain. Address your stakeholders’ rational thinking and charge the vision emotionally. Emotions are crucial in embracing or rejecting a vision.

Detail & Aspiration

Avoid the temptation to write a marketing-style vision statement; instead, craft what I call a ‘working vision’ – multiple sentences. Your vision statement needs to be specific, something you can work toward. A wishy-washy statement is unlikely to inspire action. Be aspirational, painting a picture that people want to help bring to life.

Purpose & Measurability

The caveat to loading your vision with purpose is to avoid sounding vague. A jargon-heavy vision won’t inspire people. The antidote: be specific about what you want to achieve and how it links to your purpose and desired impact. Also, add figures about how much and by when you want to achieve the desired state.

Example of a balanced vision statement

For a company in the healthcare industry, a nondescript vision may state that they profitably provide life-saving healthcare logistics to those in need. A more compelling version of that vision based on the three balanced pairs could look like this:

By the end of [add year], doctors and cancer patients in [add target market] trust us as their No. 1 partner for affordable, life-saving drugs. We have become the employer of choice for top talent, based on an award-winning, people-focused performance culture. We cross $[add number] in turnover, with a [add number] percent RoS in the U.S. and Canada.

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Main image by Markus Spiske