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Why You Need a Vision Statement and How to Write One

Ryan Wilson, MBA, PMP, LCSW works in healthcare administration in Indianapolis, IN.

A good vision statement is like the North Star—when everything else is chaotic, it provides orientation.

A good vision statement is like the North Star—when everything else is chaotic, it provides orientation.

A good vision statement is like the North Star. When everything else is chaotic and disorienting, the North Star provides grounding and orientation. A good vision statement serves the same purpose.

What Is a Vision Statement?

A vision statement articulates a conceptualization of the future. What desired future do you see? The hope of that future should align with your current behavior toward that end. That is a vision in a nutshell. And without one, we are apt to wander without real purpose.

Writing a vision statement requires articulating a proposed future. How will the world or people or the market be different as the result of your work? Why are you really doing all these things? What are you working so hard for? What future are you creating that is worth all the effort?

Who Needs a Vision Statement and Why?

Generally speaking, everyone needs a vision. The MBA student has a vision of a great career and better life. That vision sustains her during her long nights of study. The mother working two jobs envisions a future with more opportunities for her children. That vision drives her to push through the day.

The world is complex and ever-changing; people without a vision either get swept away or remain idle. The same is true of organizations. Organizations without visions flounder, especially in the long-term.

This is because vision statements answer the grand philosophical question of why. Think of an organization with 10,000 or more employees. How can all of those people possibly organize themselves in a productive way if there is no north star to which they all point? The reporting structure can only go so far in keeping alignment. A cohesive vision allows people to self-organize and aim in the same direction.

Visions also shape the character of the company. A vision is a statement to the world—this is who we are and what we are about! Then, people of like mind and similar motivation join the company, and the shared vision becomes stronger. The vision statement provides gravity that pulls the right people into the organization and keeps them connected when times get tough. Lack of vision leads to decision-making randomness and a less cohesive workforce.

What you are working toward should guide your decision-making every step of the way.

What you are working toward should guide your decision-making every step of the way.

How to Write a Vision Statement

There are some useful formulas out there for writing vision statements, but I don’t recommend a formulaic approach here. Vision needs to come from the gut. If you are responsible for writing a vision statement, here is my advice:

Understand the Scope

Clearly define what you are writing the vision statement for. Is it a personal vision statement? Is it for your startup? Is it for an established company or organization? This tells you whose input is needed.

Get at the Heart

I don’t care how long it takes. The process isn’t over until people would bleed to make that vision a reality. Once you find that, you’ve found the vision. It will have enough gravity to sustain people through whatever challenges come along the way.

Make It Memorable

Pare it down to the core. Use few words. Make it compelling and concise. It should ring in the ears and repeat itself when spoken.

Use It Wisely

Don’t ever forget or neglect it. A good vision is like gold. It is rare and must be dug out and refined. Once in your possession, it must be stored and protected. Your vision statement must not be left forgotten in the closet. It is the driving force of all work in the organization; treat it with the honor it demands.

Is your team unified by a shared vision?

Is your team unified by a shared vision?

Your Vision Sets the Direction

Vision is the single most valuable asset a company has. Nothing else matters or can be consistently productive without it. Take the time to get at the heart and write it down. It will pay dividends for years to come.

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

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