While the essence of vision is a forward looking view of what an organization wishes to become, mission is what an organization is and why it exists.
Several years ago Peter F Drucker raised important philosophical questions related to business: What is our business? What will it be? And what should it be? These three questions, though simply worded, are in reality the most fundamental questions that any organization can put to itself. The answers are based on the analysis of the underlying needs of the society that any organization serves to fulfill. The satisfaction of that need is, then, the business of the organization.
Organizations relate their existence to satisfying a particular need of the society. They do this in terms of their mission. Mission is a statement, which defines the role that an organization plays in a society. It refers to the particular needs of that society, for instance, its information needs. A book publisher and a magazine editor are both engaged in satisfying the information needs of society but they do it through different means. A book publisher may aim at producing excellent reading material while a magazine editor may strive to present news analysis in a balanced and unbiased manner. Both have different objectives but an identical mission.
A mission was earlier considered as the scope of the business activities a firm pursues. The definition of mission has gradually expanded to represent a concept that embodies the purpose behind the existence of an organization. Thompson (1997) defines mission as the “essential purpose of the organization, concerning particularly why it is in existence, the nature of the businesses it is in, and the customers it seeks to serve and satisfy” Hunger and Wheelen (1999) say that mission is the “purpose or reason for the organization’s existence”.
Now there is not much difference of opinion about the definition of mission. Yet, you finds instances of organizations confusing mission with vision or objectives. In strategic management literature, mission occupies a definite place as a part of strategic intent.
How are Mission Statements Formulated?
Most organizations derive their mission statements from a particular set of tasks they are called upon to perform in the light of their individual, national or global priorities. Several public sector organizations, set up in India during the 1950s and 60s owe their existence to the vision of Jawaharlal Nehru, the first prime minister, who enunciated and tirelessly worked for the national aim of building a strong and self reliant India by laying the foundations of many of our basic infrastructure industries. Mission statements, whether derived from set priorities or not, could be formulated either formally or informally.
Usually, entrepreneurs lay down the corporate philosophy, which an organization follows, in its strategic and operational activities. Such a philosophy may not be consciously and formally stated but may gradually evolve due to the entrepreneur’s actions. Generally an entrepreneur has a perception of the type of organization that he, wants his company to be. Mission statements could be formulated on the basis of e vision that an entrepreneur decides on in the initial stages of an organization’s, growth.
Major strategists could also contribute to the development of a mission statement. They do this informally by lending a hand in the creation of a particular corporate identity or formally through discussions and the writing down of a mission statement. Chief executives plan a major role in formulating a mission statement both formally and informally. They may set up executive committees to formally discuss and decide on a mission statement or enunciate a corporate philosophy to be followed for strategic management. Consultants may also be called upon to make an indepth: analysis of the organization to suggest an appropriate mission statement.