So what is the difference between a vision and a mission?

Space rocketIt took me a year to figure this out.  Seriously!  Ok, so not a year only doing this, but a year of coming back, researching more, looking at visions and missions and generally scratching my head until I could understand and explain what the difference was.  So here it is, for you, because you don’t need to spend a year doing what I’ve already done.

Why would I bother doing this?  The two are commonly confused, but they serve different, equally important purposes.  They are in fact one of those wonderful combinations where together they are far stronger than they are on their own, like red wine and cheese.  If you don’t know their difference and use them properly, they can’t give you what you want, and that is a team who want to achieve your vision and are driven, motivated to the hilt, to do that.  If you’re frustrated that your team don’t seem to really get your vision, they don’t remember it, or just don’t act like they want it, well, it’s most likely because your vision and mission are not working properly which means your team are not in a position to charge forward for your vision with everything they’ve got.  If your car was missing an engine, you wouldn’t expect it to work, you’d know that it can’t until it gets the right engine, and it’s the same with vision.

So what’s the difference?

integrity_circA mission is achievable and you should be able to tick it off, even if it will take 100 years to get that tick.  It’s your primary objective.

 

value_circA vision is unachievable and you should never be able to tick it off; in fact, this is where it gets its power from. It’s why you do what you do.

 

Let’s look at a few examples, first the famous ones:

NASA – To put a man on the moon. 
Apple – To make technology easy for everyone.
Martin Luther King – Equality between all men.
IBM – A computer on every desk in America.

Now use the vision/mission litmus test:  Which, of those four examples, can you put a tick by (whether they’ve been achieved yet or not)?  They are the mission statements (and the answers are below).

Here’s a great example from a school I worked with, Capel Manor Primary School in Enfield.  This is their vision:

The making of Joseph Martin

Dear Diary,

My little baby, Joseph, started school today. Boy was he nervous! He wouldn’t let go of my leg and the worry was etched on his little face!

Susan

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Merry Christmas Mum & Dad,

Our Joseph is a proper little man now. He loves school, has lots of friends and is reading and writing a bit too!

Love Simon, Susan & Joseph xxx

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Capel Manor Year 6 Personal Comment

As Joseph leaves Capel Manor, I am extremely proud of the young man he has become. He is respectful, kind and is not afraid to stand up for what he believes in. He says he wants to be a vet, and I truly believe he will be!

Miss Cannon

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Year 11 Presentation Evening

As Head Teacher of Lee Valley High School, it is with great honour to open this presentation evening which showcases out pupil’s successes. And our first award, the community award, goes to Joseph Martin for his dedication and service to the Enfield Dog Rescue Centre.

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Dear UCAS,

My name is Joseph Martin and I would like to be considered for the veterinary course at the Royal Veterinary College.

As I enter adulthood, I look back upon my life experiences which have brought me to this point and I know the skills I have learnt, will take me far in life.

My parents and first school years gave me confidence, independence and made me resilient.  Teachers inspired me to develop a true love for learning.

My voluntary work at the Enfield Dog Rescue Centre and my passion for science has motivated me through the years to become a successful qualified vet.

I am a hard-working individual who, I know, can make a difference to the life of animals.

Yours sincerely,

Joseph Martin

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And this is their mission:  To equip their children with a tool kit for life (which they have described)

You can see other examples on our wall of fame.

Can you see how they do different jobs?  Visions create pictures of success, they imply values, they appeal on an emotive level. And a mission tells us the big job we need to get done; it’s a banner to march behind.

Top tip:  Look at your school’s vision or mission statement and decide which one it is, then try to tease out your mission (it’s usually the easier of the two).

About the Author

Sonia Gill is founder of Heads Up, specialising in supporting Head Teachers and School Leaders create an outstanding school culture. https://ukheadsup.com
photo credit: Stuck in Customs via photopin cc

Answers:
NASA – To put a man on the moon.  Mission.
Apple – To make technology easy for everyone.  Vision.
Martin Luther King – Equality between all men.  Vision.
IBM – A computer on every desk in America.  Mission.