I still encounter a lot of confusion around vision and mission statements. What's the difference between the two? Which one is more important? And does one company really need both?
You may find the answers—and other great insights as well—in a new book called The Innovation Secrets of Steve Jobs, by Carmine Gallo, a San Francisco "communications coach" who earlier this year dined out on Apple's founder with a book called The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs. Gallo's new book, subtitled "Insanely Different Principles for Breakthrough Success," exploits Jobs' and Apple's reputations as leading innovators to help you understand where you and your business can add value, and how you can better serve your customers with innovations in products and services, style and design, distribution and strategy.
I don't usually like books that are about people whom the author never meets or interviews; they usually just recycle their subjects' press clippings. But Gallo manages to distill a lot of good information. And I particularly liked his points on vision and mission:
"Traditional mission statements are long, convoluted paragraphs, typically drawn up by committee, and destined to be tucked into a drawer somewhere and largely forgotten. Not one business professional I've ever met—not one—has ever been able to recite his or her company's mission statement word for word. If you cannot remember it, then why bother? Toss the mission statement. It's a waste of time."
Gallo suggests you work on your vision statement instead. It is "a picture of a better world that your product or service makes possible. Captivating visions inspire investors, employees, and customers—and best of all, they inspire those stakeholders to become evangelists for the organization." He believes an inspiring vision should meet three criteria: it should be specific, concise, and consistent.
The author then cites some of the best mission statements he has seen. Starbucks founder Howard Schultz, for instance, pitched investors by painting of vision of "a third place between work and home." As Gallo says, "Now, that's specific. It's tangible. You can visualize it in your mind's eye."
When Google's founders went looking for venture capital, they said their goal was "to provide access to the world's information in one click." According to Gallo, "that one sentence was so inspiring that investors at the Silicon Valley venture firm [Sequoia Capital] not only funded the company but also now require any entrepreneur who sets foot into the office to articulate the company's vision in 10 words or fewer." As one Sequoia VC told Gallo, "if you can't describe what you do in 10 words or fewer, I'm not buying, I'm not investing, I'm not interested. Period."
At salesforce.com, CEO Marc Benioff printed his company's vision, "The end of software," on laminated cards that every employee could carry around. He even had pins made up consisting of the word "Software" with a big red slash through it. As Gallo notes, "the vision was consistently delivered across all company channels—in presentations, on the website, in advertisements, and in all marketing material." Talk about consistency.
Steve Jobs' original vision for Apple was "a computer in the hands of everyday people," back when most PCs were hugely expensive, confusing and hard to use. As Gallo points out, that vision was concise, specific and applied consistently for years. Today, Apple's vision has changed to match the company's growing ambitions, but Jobs still knows how to sell it. He says the future of Apple is "to put together small teams of great people and set them to build their dreams. We are artists, not engineers." (Hint: Jobs sees engineers as the people who say, "Nope. Can't be done."
How can you make sure your company's vision is controlled by its artists, and not by its nay-sayers?