What comes first? What drives the other? Is it a chicken and egg situation (cyclic or rather dynamic relationship) or is there a direction?
This was one of the topics I debated with a colleague of mine, long time back, when I was at Sri Lanka Institute of Development Administration (Sri Lanka’s equivalent to public service colleges find in rest of the world).
I took the position that mission should come first. It is your calling. It provides you the meaning of life. Vision should be the destination when one travels in that path.
I now think, this may not be true with everyone. Some people will have a passionate dream (vision). They could pursue different paths in achieving and there should be room to change the course (path).
The people in the first category are people who are value driven and those in the second category are passion driven. In Sigmund Freud’s terminology, first category has strong Super-ego while in the second category strong Id.
Don’t misunderstand my position, not that I am trying to label people and put them in to black and white compartments. People who are driven by values will also have passions, but what I want to emphasize is that they are primarily driven by values and secondarily by passion; at least their passions are defined more or less by values, than vice-versa. The others who are driven by dreams will also have values, in attaining dreams they will try to be within a set of values, but primarily they are driven by dreams.
On my part, looking back at my life, I have been driven by values and probably that would be the reason, why I would have thought the mission should come first.
As part of the coursework for the MBA, we were asked to write our personal vision and mission statements. I remember writing my mission as to influence individuals and institutes to become more capable/versatile and equipped them to grow in the ever-changing world. My vision was to become a very much sort after lecturer by major training institutes of the country. So right after the MBA, I pursued these mission and vision, and ended up with varying degree of success.
I brought up this to make a point; that my vision has been molded through the lenses of my mission and not vice-versa. Different people therefore view vision-mission dichotomy differently.
This would be bit simple when it is applied to individuals; but what about the institutions and organizations.
Here again I thought, the answer is pretty easy for non-profits. They have been established to realize a particular mission. But what about commercial enterprises. This is tricky. I can only assume that it might depend on the character of the owners.
The economy is ultimately our material relationship with each other and with the rest of the living beings. Do we want that relationship to be based on extraction and exploitation or do we want it to be based on reciprocity and care?