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In Focus: Mission. Values. Vision. Strategy. What they mean and why they matter.

Our In Focus series of articles originally appeared in The Leadership Bulletin, a free weekly bulletin for leaders and managers. You can subscribe here.

Mission, values, vision, and strategy. Might they be four of the most used words in leadership and management? What concerns me isn’t how often they are used, but the way they are often used interchangeably. If you listen to many people, it’s as if mission is the same as vision, or indeed values, and they can all come under the title of strategy. But they are fundamentally different concepts and I believe leaders and managers need to be clear about what each of them means in their organisation.

Let’s start with the definitions. Here’s my brief summary of what each concept means:

  • Mission. Your mission is the very reason why you exist. This might be what you do, who you support, or what you facilitate. But the key thing is that a mission goes right to the heart of why your organisation was founded and continues to operate today.

  • Values. Values are about the principles that underpin the way you approach your mission. It may be that you choose to work in a collaborative way, or that Corporate Social Responsibility is built into the way you do business. Each organisation will have different values and they should define the way you approach your mission.

  • Vision. Your vision should be expressed as a brief and concise statement of what your community, country or even the world will look like if you succeed in your mission. This should be fairly specific, so you can measure yourself in the months and years to come against what you aimed to achieve.

  • Strategy. Finally, your strategy is the detailed plan of how you will make your vision a reality, implementing your values and fulfilling your mission. This will be where your approaches to product development, marketing and much more come together to ensure that you are a thriving organisation that achieves its goals.

Hopefully that shows how each of these terms means something very different. I recommend that you think about each of them for your organisation and use them as the basis for communicating with your team about the future. Focus on achieving a workforce where everybody - especially leaders and managers - knows why you exist, what values you hold, where you want to get to and how you’re going to get there.

I’ve made this infographic as a takeaway resource you can use to achieve this.