What Is the Importance of a Vision Statement?

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "The Making of a Manager" by Julie Zhuo. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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Why is the importance of a vision statement? What happens when people don’t believe in your vision?

A vision statement clearly states the end goal of your team’s coordinated efforts. Ultimately, a good vision statement tells team members what they’re working toward, not how they’ll do it.

Read why it’s important for a company to reinforce a vision statement.

Why a Powerful Vision Matters

What is the importance of a vision statement? In The Making of a Manager, Julie Zhuo asserts that when people don’t feel connected to an inspiring vision, their performance will likely suffer. Why? Because they don’t clearly see that what they do makes a difference, and they’re likely to prioritize their personal ambitions over collaboration. Conversely, when team members understand and support a big vision, they’ll be motivated to do their part in moving it forward

Also, a powerful vision helps define priorities to facilitate sound decision-making. Zhuo says every assignment and short-term objective should clearly connect with the company’s higher purpose, and you should actively avoid pursuing plans that work against the vision statement. 

(Shortform note: In Start With Why, Simon Sinek refers to the process of making decisions based on your vision (your “why”) as the Celery Test. Essentially, the Celery Test helps you pinpoint “healthy” options that advance your company’s vision, and at the same time, eliminate “unhealthy” options that don’t advance the vision. When you and your team consistently use the Celery Test when making decisions, others can observe your commitment to your vision. This will attract the kinds of customers and business connections that are key to your success and your company’s growth.) 

This approach will help you set goals that ensure steady progress toward your vision. Therefore, Zhuo says managers should reinforce the company’s vision by sharing it consistently—in emails, during one-on-one meetings, and at company-wide get-togethers—so it continues to function as the main reference point for everyone’s actions.

(Shortform note: To more effectively reinforce the company’s vision while sharing it with your team, communicate it through images and creative typography so it’s visually appealing and memorable. You can also post the vision on your company’s website, display it on office signage, and print it on company swag.)

Why Employees Might Not “Get” Your Company’s Vision

Research supports Zhuo’s assertion of the importance of a vision statement for attracting and keeping employees motivated, especially for younger workers. A report found that a “sense of purpose” in work is the second most important criterion for millennials considering a job, after salary. Thus, if job candidates and employees don’t believe in or support your company’s vision, you’ll likely lose out on good talent. 

However, there’s often a disconnect between employees and a company’s vision. In one study, 52% of employees said they don’t know their organization’s vision. What accounts for this gap? Here are three possible reasons:

  • The vision is too “high level.” Although a vision might sound good, it leaves too much to the imagination for employees operating at ground level. To resolve this, be sure you clearly connect employees’ day-to-day tasks to the company’s purpose.
  • Decisions and individual actions are not aligned with the vision. People end up performing trivial work that’s not aligned with stated priorities. As Zhuo says, use your vision to focus people’s efforts on big-picture priorities rather than non-essential tasks. 

People fear embracing the vision may mean more work. Consequently, employees may feign ignorance of the vision, placing the burden of further clarification on you. Look for ways to incentivize the adoption of the vision by rewarding actions that line up with the company’s strategic direction.

What Is the Importance of a Vision Statement?

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Katie Doll

Somehow, Katie was able to pull off her childhood dream of creating a career around books after graduating with a degree in English and a concentration in Creative Writing. Her preferred genre of books has changed drastically over the years, from fantasy/dystopian young-adult to moving novels and non-fiction books on the human experience. Katie especially enjoys reading and writing about all things television, good and bad.

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