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The public face of organisations: purpose, vision, mission, values and ethics

There are a lot of documents that need to be produced for the strategic management process – let’s start with a brief explanation of what they are and what they are meant to depict and achieve, and how they influence organisational strategy.

Witcher and Chau (2010) provide a pictorial starting point:

Vision; doing new things, a new position or state for the organisation, feeds into strategy. Values; the way we do things, business methodologies and management philosophies, feeds into organisational culture. Mission; doing existing things better, what the organisation does now, feeds into the business model. Strategy and business model feed into each other. Strategic change is positioned between strategy and organisational culture. Control of core business areas; key performance indicators and continuous improvement, is positioned between organisational culture and business model.

The figure is adapted from Witcher and Chau (2010: 40) and is available and expandable in the ‘downloads’ section below.

More detailed explanations and descriptions now follow:

Purpose: The primary reason for an organisation to exist; it’s the driving force that enables the organisation to define its brand and create its desired culture. Formally the company’s purpose is listed in its articles of incorporation or memorandum of association.

Vision: The organisation’s future intent, as we explained in the previous step.

Mission: Explains why an organisation exists and provides a statement of its present main activities. A written declaration of an organisation’s core purpose and focus that normally remains unchanged over time. An effective and informative mission statement does three things: identifies what is important; states which markets will be served and how; and conveys the direction to the entire organisation.

Values: The expected collective norms and behaviour of everybody in the organisation, what is good or bad and desirable or undesirable. Common business values are normally seen as fairness, innovation and community involvement.

Ethics: The statement of morals and behaviour that an organisation adopts and abides by. It is seen as an unpublished code of conduct in relation to customers and others parties involved in business activities.

Your task

Is it vision or is it mission?

Take the answers and see if you can place them in their right position in the following table:

Grid: vision or mission?

Vision Concepts Mission
  Addresses the question of…  
  Future or present?  
  For whom is it developed?  
  Which is created first?  
  How often does it change?  

Answers available by concept:


Tells what an organisation aims to achieve States what an organisation is currently doing

Addresses the question of:

What do we do? What do we want to become?


- Customers

- Products/services

- Markets

- Technology

- Concern for survival

- Philosophy

- Self-concept

- Concern for public image

- Concern for employees
- Objectives

- Values

Future or present?

Talks about the future Talks about the present

Which is created first?

Vision Mission

How often does it change?

Changes more often Rarely changes

Discuss any difficulties that you might be having with your peers. The empty grid is available in the ‘downloads’ section below, and the completed grid is available in the ‘downloads’ section of the reflection step at the end of this week.

Further reading

If you are interested in how this all comes together within companies, two examples within construction are Vinci Construction and Actividades de Construccion Y Servicios.


Witcher, B. J., and Chau, V. S. (2010) Strategic Management: Principles and Practice. Andover: South-Western Cengage Learning

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This article is from the free online course:

Business Strategy: The Art of Looking into the Future

Coventry University