If the roots are core values, and the trunk is mission, then the crown of the tree (branches and foliage) is vision. (Full disclosure: I had to look up the word for the top of the tree.) The crown is expansive, reaches for the light, and provides energy. Vision for an organization does these same things.
A vision is similar to but distinct from goals. All of the characteristics of goals (SMART) apply to vision. What sets vision apart from mere goals is scope. A vision is a singular destination for the entire organization that sets clear direction for everyone involved. Goals are next in the process… Each goal should take the organization one step closer to realizing its vision.
In order for a vision to work, it needs to paint a picture of the organization in the future (5 to 10 years in the future). This picture should be vivid and exciting. Everyone who reads it should be able to “see” it and catch the vision. Every employee and stakeholder should know where they are going. This detail and clarity is what distinguishes an excellent vision from the mediocre or poorly written.
Vision is the culmination. It grows out of the core values and mission. And yet, without a healthy vision, the mission and core values wither. They are interdependent. All three are essential for an organization that desires health and growth. As Rick Warren says, “All living things grow if they’re healthy.”* Discovering, acknowledging, and cultivating core values, mission, and vision are the initial keys to a healthy organization.
*Rick Warren, “Forget Church Growth, Aim for Church Health”, https://pastors.com/health-not-growth/