Project Vision Statement
Developed by Kristoffer Glahn
Developing a vision and a vision statement is an important part of a project. But what is a vision statement and why should it be used? It is the aim of this article to investigate what a project vision statement is and what key elements that a Vision Statement has to contain in order to be both powerful and useful for a project. Furthermore, is it the intent with this article to examine the benefits and limitations of such a statement, as well as the project managers role in clearly communicating it. In order to investigate this, this article is based on information from the PMI standard concerning project management, as well as articles and other literature concerning vision statements in general and in projects. Furthermore, examples of vision statements are presented in this article in order to show how these statements can look in reality.
While the vision is the grand idea, the vision statement is a clear and concise announcement and description of the big picture. The statement is often simple, specific, time-bound, challenging, engaging and inspiring. It describes the desired future state and the associated goals. The statement is usually brief, but still gives a direction to the project team and inspiration to stakeholders. It is the project managers role to clearly communicate the vision statement to all project team members, as well as external stakeholders. A powerful vision statement can have a large effect on any project and act as a source of direction, motivation and inspiration. This can lead to a more engaged project team, with much higher performance and committed stakeholders. Though a great vision statement can have many benefits for a project, it also has its limitations. As it is very brief it does not contain much detail about how the project should be carried out and it must be communicated to all involved in the project clearly in order for it to have a profound effect on the success of the project.
Project Vision Statements
A project vision statement is a description or declaration of what an organization/project team wants to obtain or accomplish upon the completion of a project. While the vision is the grand idea, the vision statement is a clear and concise announcement and description of the big picture. It usually consists of only a few sentences, but still highlights the end goal. It is used as a very general road map for projects, pinpointing where it should be heading and what the ultimate goal and objectives are. The purpose of a project vision statement is to show the direction of the project and define the criteria of success. Furthermore, is it to motivate, engage and inspire the project team working on the project, as well as the projects different stakeholders . All organizations and projects can use and benefit from having a vision statement.
According to the PMI standard, there are 5 phases of project management .These include (see figure 1):
- Conception and Initialization
- Definition and Planning
- Launch or Execution
- Performance and Control
- Project Close
A vision statement is usually made during the very early stages of a project. Often in phase 1, the Conception and Initialization phase. It is part of the Project Charter process, which also includes elements such as project description, assumptions and requirements for a project. A vision statement is applied and included in a project as early as possible. This is in order to create a common focus and define the end goal from the very beginning of a project . This will limit confusion in the project team, as they will work towards a common goal and not several objectives in different directions of each other. A vision statement can be used and is beneficial in all projects or programmes no matter the size or the complexity. However, it is essential that it is communicated to all people engaged in the project, especially if the project is very complex. A project vision statement should be aligned with the goals and the strategy of the organization and of the project in question. The vision description will be used as the foundation for the strategic plan and the next phases of project management .
The Project Managers Role
It is the role of the Project Manager to lead the team working on the project, in order to meet the expectations from the different stakeholders, as well as the project goals. It is furthermore to facilitate communication between the team members and the stakeholders. The Project Manager should through presenting the vision, give a direction and inspiration for the project team to obtain high performance workers. The project manager also has to communicate the project vision to other stakeholders and beneficiaries in order to gain support for the project, as well as give inspiration . The Project Manager thus, plays a large part in incorporating the project vision and making sure that everyone involved are aware of what the project's vision is.
Creating a Vision Statement
In the process of creating a project vision statement there are some elements that should be focused on . These include making the project vision statement:
- Concise and simple
The statement should be brief - usually it only contains a few sentences. It should also be easy to remember, as well as to repeat. If it is too complex people might not be able to relate to it.
- Specific and clear
The vision statement should define and be centered around the end goal and the criteria that will make the project a success. It should furthermore be clear, so that everyone involved in the project understands and are aware of the statement. There should be a focus on making sure that everyone understands the vision in the same way, so that the project does not move out of scope.
- Hold many possible solutions
Even though the statement should be specific, it is essential that it not only encourages one specific way to achieve the desired outcome. Instead it should promote exploration of multiple different paths of obtaining the end goals.
There should if possible be a time horizon/frame for when the desired goals should be achieved.
- Oriented towards the future
The statement should not be focused on the current state, but instead oriented towards a desired future state and the benefits that will come from achieving the presented goals and objectives.
The end goal should be challenging and demanding to obtain, otherwise the project might be redundant.
- Desirable and inspirational
It is important that the vision is meaningful and inspiring for all stakeholders involved in the project. The project team should be encouraged by the statement to engage.
Though many vision statements do not necessarily incorporate all of the points, they must be kept in mind, as the will be key factors if a powerful vision statement is to be created.
Examples of Vision Statements
An example of a project vision statement is from John F. Kennedy’s speech to congress on May 25, 1961 (see figure 2):
"…this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to Earth. No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important for the long-range exploration of space; and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish” 
This statement gave rise to the Apollo program, which in 1969 put the first man on the moon, with the Apollo 11 mission. This statement follows to some extend all of the above-mentioned key points and was especially very challenging for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and inspirational for the public at the time.
There are many examples of vision statements made by companies that through projects, programs and portfolios aim at achieving their overall vision for the future . One is from the American battery and electric car manufacturer Tesla:
“...to create the most compelling car company of the 21st century by driving the world’s transition to electric vehicles.” 
This was Tesla´s vision statement until 2016, when the company shifted towards other sustainable energy focus areas than just transport. Some of the new products that were created within these new areas included the company’s Powerwall and solar roof tiles . This statement also illustrates how brief a vision statement can be, while still being motivational and inspiring.
Often several concepts of vision statements are made before the final version of the statement is chosen. Furthermore, the vision and thereby the project vision statement might change in the middle of the project, as discoveries and new insights are made. Therefore, the vision statement might need to be altered along the way. Changing the vision statement however is not always easy and key stakeholders should be involved and agree on new changes.
A Vision Statement is important for many different reasons and can have an impact on both organizations and projects. It can especially play a large part in the success of a project. A vision statement can be a large motivational factor for the project team. It can be used to signify the meaningfulness of the tasks and processes that have to be carried out in order to achieve the end goals. This can also lead to a more productive team with higher performance and engagement. It can also be motivational for many other stakeholders involved in a project. A vision statement also provides the project team with valuable guidance and gives direction as to where the project should be headed, because it outlines what the end goal is. It helps guiding in decision making and planning processes and in managing project expectations. Moreover, it is a source of inspiration for both the project team and external stakeholders, including the public. This can be very important if the project is long term or is especially challenging. Lastly, through an inspirational vision statement projects and organizations can attract external support and beneficiaries. Furthermore, a closer connection with external stakeholders can be made and it can serve as a tool for relations with the public .
Even though a vision statement is great for providing motivation, direction and definition of the desired outcome of a project it has its limitations. As a vision statement is often very brief it does not give a detailed description of many important aspects of a project. It does not explain the project time schedule, budget requirements, team responsibilities and so on. The project team thus, needs to understand the elementary and fundamental processes and activities required to achieve the projects end goals . It is also essential to the use of a vision statement that it is communicated to the project team members, so that they are aware of it and can work in the direction of the presented vision. It is also important that the vision makes sense to the employees and is incorporated in the activities and processes that are facilitated by the project management and so is not forgotten or is abandoned as a project is underway. Projects that alter their vision statement midway might have also have difficulties if the new vision is not communicated to all project team members and stakeholders. It is therefore essential that these are aware of the changes and agree with the new vision statement for the project.
This article describes how a vision statement is a description or declaration of what an organization/project team wants to obtain or accomplish in the future. A project vision statement is used to show the direction of the project and what the end goal is. It can be a guidance for employees and managers and be a source of inspiration, motivation, engagement and forward thinking. A project vision statement should be: concise, clear, oriented towards the future, time-bound, hold many possible solutions, challenging, motivating and inspiring. All organizations and projects can use and benefit from having a vision statement, although it might be more complicated in large and very complex projects. There are several benefits from having a vision statement, such as motivation and guidance for project teams, as well as inspiration for both internal and external project stakeholders. It is important that the vision statement is communicated to all project members, as well as changes made to it while the project is underway. However, the briefness of the statement means that it does not contain thorough details about how the project should be carried out or by whom. Nonetheless, a powerful project vision statement can have a large positive effect on a project and so it is essential that a project manager is aware of this.
Kantabutra, Sooksan; Avery, Gayle (2010). "The power of vision: statements that resonate" (PDF). Journal of Business Strategy. page: 37–45
Annotation: This part of the journal gives the reader important information about the how vision statements work and how a powerful vision statement can be created. It also describes how visions can be related and linked to results.
Cascade, "100+ of the World's Best Vision Statements": (https://www.executestrategy.net/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/100-of-the-worlds-best-vision-statements.pdf)
Annotation: This e-book gives a great overview of Vision Statement made by organizations and corporations from a range of different sectors. It shows these statements general traits and show how inspirational statements like these can be.
Christenson, Dale; Walker, Derek H.T., 2004. Understanding the Role of “Vision” in Project Success
Annotation: This article gives the reader great information about the significance of Vision Statements in projects and how they can have a large impact on the outcome and the success in projects. It presents a case study in which it is found that the success of the project largely could be attributed to the project leadership group's use of a Vision Statement.
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 Kantabutra, Sooksan; Avery, Gayle (2010). "The power of vision: statements that resonate" (PDF). Journal of Business Strategy. page: 37–45, http://www.collegeofmanagement.mahidol.ac.th/research/images/VisionstatementsJBS.pdf
- ↑ What is Project Management?, https://www.pmi.org/about/learn-about-pmi/what-is-project-management
- ↑ Demystifying the 5 Phases of Project Management, https://www.smartsheet.com/blog/demystifying-5-phases-project-management/
- ↑ McConnell, E., (2010), "Project Vision Statement", https://mymanagementguide.com/project-vision-statement/
- ↑ Tubbs, F., "7 Steps to Writing an Effective Project Vision Statement", https://www.eylean.com/blog/2018/05/7-steps-writing-effective-project-vision-statement/
- ↑ Project Management: A guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK guide), 6th Edition (2017)
- ↑ 7.0 7.1 May 25, 1961: JFK's Moon Shot Speech to Congress (2011), https://www.space.com/11772-president-kennedy-historic-speech-moon-space.html
- ↑ Cascade, "100+ of the World's Best Vision Statements", https://www.executestrategy.net/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/100-of-the-worlds-best-vision-statements.pdf
- ↑ https://www.tesla.com/about
- ↑ Rowland, C., "Tesla, Inc.’s Mission Statement & Vision Statement" (2018), Panmore Institute, http://panmore.com/tesla-motors-inc-vision-statement-mission-statement-analysis
- ↑ Mission and Vision Statements (2018), Bain and Company, https://www.bain.com/insights/management-tools-mission-and-vision-statements/
- ↑ Sowby, R., "How To Write A Project Vision Statement", https://www.projecttimes.com/articles/how-to-write-a-project-vision-statement.html