What Comes First Vision or Mission?

By Ryan Rieches

Actually neither – Purpose comes first. In my most recent post I provided RiechesBaird’s viewpoint on why an emotionally stimulating Purpose Statement is at the core and becomes a compelling driver for corporate culture. If the Purpose Statement can answer the question of “why do we exist,” then the other core statements can be more strategically focused.

The most common question I get asked is – What comes first Vision or Mission?
Here is an easy way to remember – Just put ARY at the end of each. For example: A visionARY is one who sees into the future and can visualize a clear destination. A missionARY is one who helps realize that vision. Make sense?

Our view on how Vision and Mission fit together:
A vision statement answers – WHAT do we aim to achieve?
A mission statement answers – HOW do we plan to achieve this vision?

More on Vision – an ideal Vision Statement is one that concisely depicts a desired result that motivates, energizes and helps an organization describe its destination. Culture can determine the most effective type of Vision Statement that is appropriate for your company. Here are a few different examples:


  • Become a $125 billion company by the year 2000. – Wal-Mart, 1990
  • A computer on every desk and in every home; all running Microsoft software. – Microsoft, 1990s
  • We will put a man on the moon and return him safely within the decade. – JFK, early 1960s


  • Crush Adidas. – Nike, 1960s
  • Yamaha wo tsubusu! We will destroy Yamaha! – Honda, 1970s


  • Become the Harvard of the West. – Stanford University, 1940s
  • Become the Nike of the cycling industry. – Giro Sport Design, 1986

Internal Transformations

  • Become number one or two in every market we serve and revolutionize this company to have the strengths of a big company combined with the leanness and agility of a small company. — GE, 1980s
  • Transform this company from a defense contractor into the best-diversified high-tech company in the world. — Rockwell, 1995
  • Become the company most known for changing the worldwide poor-quality image of Japanese products. — Sony, 1950s

Evaluating Vision– Here are some useful criteria to use when developing and evaluating a compelling Vision Statement:

  • Measurable – how would we know if progress is being made
  • Attainable – must be able to take it seriously
  • Inspiring – must engage people emotionally
  • Cultural – must fit with the organization’s unique style
  • Single minded – must be focused
  • Vivid – must be clear and easily understood