Mission, vision and core values are part of the directional strategies of an organization. They set boundaries to the operations and assist an organization in doing its work.
Represent what the organization is doing right now.
Represent what the organization is trying to achieve in future.
Represent qualities of the operations or services. For example, "Respect Others" may be one of the core values of a company. It suggests that an employee should (actively) demonstrate respect to the co-workers and others external to the organization. Core values tend to glue the employees and others together.
Formulated and impregnated well into an organization, directional strategies become high power tools. For example, say an external company suggests a merger. Your mission and vision can easily decide whether you accept the offer or reject. A core value like "Excel in all services" encourages employees to do their best in every activity they perform. I guess you can now figure out why directional strategies are called directional strategies.
I just figured out a small mistake in the web site of National Intellectual Property Office of Sri Lanka. In their first page, the web site writer had placed the text of the mission statement under "Vision" and vice versa. I just dropped them an email to correct it. In their "about page", they have the information correctly. Here's what I see right now:
-- Note (11.20 pm, 15th of March 2007): I removed the image that was here later on. Mistake was corrected by NIPO very quickly. An image carries much more weight than a textual description which might make some people feel uncomfortable. And I felt that I shouldn't be a copycat. Above all, who knows whether they would sue me. It's the NIPO, the primary body responsible for IP! --
* I have no intension in laughing at them given that I make lots of mistakes of my own. There's nothing better than correcting when something goes wrong.
* Another aspect is that many organizations in Sri Lanka do not recognize the value of organizational culture and strategies of this nature which are tiny in concept, but big in impact. This might be due to the lack of maturity, education or practice in our country. It's a problem of us and we loose. But in many other countries, they are powerful tools used by commercial, non-commercial, military and other governmental and private entities.