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Organisations used to talk about mission and vision, today we talk about purpose and vision, but what are they? Are they innately different? And why is it that some organisations find it hard to align these two concepts?

Language is a powerful tool, if you look at the definitions of mission and purpose, they are not that dissimilar. They both talk about why the organisation exists, however in practice some phrase their mission more around what they do instead of why. This is where I think the word purpose has more weight, it goes from being solely rational to drawing on emotion, and hence, the heart of the organisation. I completely agree with Simon Sinek on this, starting with WHY makes a huge difference.

Once the “why” is established, purpose, the organisation needs something to get people to get up and do. What is going to get the blood pumping through the heart, a clear vision of what can be achieved my moving forward. Where is it that we will be in the future?  This is the Strategic Vision, it must be compelling, inspiring and seem a tad crazy but achievable. The purpose must be the core of it, for those days when the getting gets tough for leaders to come back and remind people that the vision is still possible and to remember “why” they went this way to begin with. They are intertwined purpose and vision; together they hold the power to drive action, commitment, and the environment for people to support each other to reach their personal and their organisation’s goals. Having a clear purpose and vision differentiates you from the crowd, attracts those people who choose to follow and makes work easier to manage.

Successful organisations already have this working for them. The “why” does not need to be about “what” you do.  Just think of Apple, their why is to “challenge the status quo” as Simon Sinek mentions, they just happen to do this through electronics. My why and your why will differ and that’s a good thing because users, investors, customers and partners will then go with the why that matches their own.

Vision, is about dreaming big, when talking about an organisation do not settle for where you want to be in a year’s time, nor in 5 years, focus more in where you’ll be as an organisation in 10-20 years. This will then allow you to break it down to what in business is called a 5 year plan. Here is a controversial question… is a 5 year plan even valid anymore? Should we not really check back a bit sooner in case there have been some amazing changes or opportunities on how we may reach our 10 year vision and fulfil our purpose better or bigger?

Aligning vision and purpose should not be hard work… it should be evolutionary work. Checking back and seeing, are we working in line with our purpose, is our vision strong and understood, does anything need changing, tweaking, growing? In a world where we have more choices as individuals, organisations need to get clearer in what they stand for, how do they contribute, and why we should follow.

Cinthya Quijano, Director of Change Differently Ltd

Twitter: @sustainableOD

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