What is a Vision, a Mission or a Strategy?

I have been working with several clients on developing their strategy, something I perfected during my role as Global Strategy Lead at Shell Lubricants.  It raises the usual questions of what exactly are visions, missions and strategies and why have them?.  In this post I clarify the differences and their value.  The saying “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will do” is true and how do you expect others to follow you along that road. if they are confused or misaligned?

Vision:  This is your picture of success – a description of what you want to achieve in the future.  It should be inspiring, timed and paint a picture.  It may well be earning £xxxx but what will that get you?  More time, freedom? Opportunities to be creative?  What would success look like?  Think Martin Luther King and “I have a dream…….”.  Many corporates feel that a “picture” isn’t appropriate for the business world, however if they truly wish to engage, motivate and inspire their people to strive for their goals, they need to make it real and worthwhile and “being a leading provider” may not be enough!

Mission:  This is your purpose.  What is your business here to do?  What is your personal purpose? A mission is something to be accomplished, whereas a vision is something to be pursued.  The Mission statement will clearly indicate the direction, markets and what is important.

Strategy:  The route to your vision.  How you are going to achieve your vision and fulfill your mission.  Most businesses adopt Michael Porter’s view that a strategy is about your competitive position.  This may not always be appropriate for you.  One thing is clear though, a strategy is not necessarily several pages long.  It it is,  then it starts to become a plan.  It usually comprises; 1. the vision, mission and values; 2. Reality which looks both internally and externally.  3: Options that could be considered; 4: Recommendations or decisions (whichever is appropriate) on the preferred options.

These descriptions are of course high-level and there are far more angles and contexts.  The main point is that each of them should be as short and succinct as possible but still convey sufficient meaning, direction and purpose to be useful.  I have seen vision statements of 5 pages, strategy documents of 20+ pages and a mission statement of 4 words!

My last question is to ask you to run through each of these concepts, asking yourself:-

1.  Do I know, understand and believe in them for my business (your own or those of your organisation)?.  Do you have 3 yeses?

2.  What is my personal vision, mission and strategy?  Can you say them to someone else and do they understand them?

Let me know how you get on!

And for the audio

Recommended Reading:  If you want my e-book on business success 

Lighter Reflections:   

Our neighbours came around for a drink last night and we were telling them of our wonderful experience in walking Hadrian’s Wall.  I don’t think many people who have completed this Walk can claim that they were joined by a Roman Cohort along the way!  We were trudging through the knee-high mud when Guy called out “Did you see that?”.  We sighed and looked up to see a flash of scarlet in the woods.  We then came upon the “Roman”s complete in full Roman regalia.  They were a bunch of young lads walking the Wall for Charity.  We pictured them thinking what a great idea it was during a Saturday night at the local pub.  They obviously didn’t expect the howling winds, torrential rain and deep boggy ground in mid-July which they were experiencing as they had started before us.  We did feel sorry for them with their short kilts and bare arms.  What a magnificent achievement for them at the finish though.  No wonder British resilience defeated the Romans!

Future Forum Dates:

Leadership Forum, Ipswich – How to keep your customers

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About RosemaryCC

Leadership Coach and Management Consultant helping you to clarify your goals and achieve success in your career or business. Also founder of Highflyingdivas and the Leadership Forum
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