Question: Are Strategy & Mission The Same?

Strategy, Vision, Plan, Mission—these words gauge a strong response from anyone who is listening to them. Too much strategy talk has always bothered me, so I wanted to hear from you.

I believe it is important to have a plan for the work that we do, whether it is an overall annual plan or a plan for each specific project. It is also necessary to have something like a mission that you can use to describe the work that you do. How else can you concretely say, “Yes, we do that,” or “No, we don’t,” without one?

Beyond having a mission and a plan, it seems to me that everything else is repetitive. How is vision different than knowing where you want your plan to ultimately take you? People often confuse the difference between mission and vision. In most planning discussions that I’ve participated in, the first 30 minutes to an hour are spent trying to explain the difference between mission and vision.

What are your thoughts on strategy, vision, mission, and planning? Do you believe each of these ideas are unique to the success of an organization or do you believe that they describe the same concept?

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5 Responses to Question: Are Strategy & Mission The Same?

  1. Maggie Keenan says:

    Mission is what you say you do. Strategy is how you go about accomplishing it.

  2. Riccardo Friede says:

    Maybe these are just definitions, but as fundraiser we should take as lighthouses: MISSION is the way your organization wants the world to be, the reason for which it does exist (defeat hunger, to serve and protect every abused woman, bring health facilities where needed). STRATEGY is the organization’s long term plan to make the mission something real and tangible, even not yet focusing on what you’re going to do day-by-day, it’s the path you decide to walk for the next 3-5 years. VISION is how the organization expects to be in the future: “We’re are going to be a well established organization, deep-rooted in the places where we operate, economically stable, leading local force against social exclusion”. VISION is different from STRATEGY because VISION is referred to the organization itself, like a photo from the future, STRATEGY concerns long term activities and decisions to be taken. VISION is something more related to identity and external communication, STRATEGY is more connected with internal work organization and planning.

  3. Giorgio Gori says:

    All of these concepts are ‘internal facing’ and so are required to plot the organizations course. I have found the biggest confusion amongst most people is that between strategy and tactics. Strategy is the overarching concept to achieve a specific objective and the tactics are the individual activities that fall out from that strategy.
    The way I use these concepts (on both a corporate and a project level) is to use a tool I call “VOST” which stands for Vision, Objectives, Strategy, Tactics. I am currently writing an ebook to explain these concepts and show how they can be used in a not-for-profit

  4. To me, mission is what you do – feed the hungry. Vision is what the world would look like if you successfully put yourself out of business – hunger is eradicated. Strategy, or goals, is just how you are working for your mission.

  5. PNW_Warrior Woman says:

    “Without a sensible vision, a transformation effort can easily dissolve into a list of confusing and incompatible projects that can take an organization in the wrong direction or nowhere …. In failed transformations, you often find plenty of directives and programs but no vision … A useful rule of thumb: if you can’t communicate the

    vision to someone in five minutes or less and get a reaction that signifies both understanding and interest, you are not yet done with this phase of the transformation process.”

    From ‘Leading Change: Why Transformations Fail’ by John Kotter from

    Harvard

    Visions “should provide a shock of recognition that has the power and intensity to command attention, evoking resonating images”… Visions should be “credible and easily understood, optimistic, and ennobling.” Visions should “remind people of the tough things that need doing and the reasons for them.” Visions should “elevate their aspirations” and “show them a brighter, more successful future for themselves if the

    organization achieves its vision.” And visions should “ignite their energies and empower them to move forward together… toward a shared purpose.” – Bert Nanus

    With respect to mission…

    Your organization must have an unequaled and invincible mission. The need for your service is undeniable and its justification for support is dramatic and emotionally captivating. With greater clarity on our mission and vision, we can ask all of our stakeholders to increase their investment in our great cause, our towering dream and the everlasting benefits to those who are served.

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