Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Strategic Planning - Vision? Mission? Buzzword?

Often, when I am either doing strategic planning or conducting a seminar on strategic planning, someone will ask me if one of our worksheets (usually the strategies worksheet – page 5.4, or the mission statement – page 6.1) is like a “vision statement”, “mission statement” or some other buzzword. In general, people who ask such questions have read at least one or two books on strategic planning that use these terms. While I usually answer “yes”, the real answer is – it probably doesn’t matter.

Why would I say this? After doing close to a thousand strategic planning meetings, I can confidently say that terminology does NOT make good strategy. Quite the opposite, in fact – the more buzzwords you stuff into your strategic plan, the more I will worry that it’s not going to work. We use buzzwords in an attempt to solidify meaning around some fairly difficult and intangible concepts that are necessary to craft good strategy – but, at the end of the day, it is the quality of the strategy that matters, not whether you identify the components with the corrct buzzwords.

In practical terms, the things people are talking about when they talk about “mission” and “vision” have to do with how we think about where we are going, strategically. “Vision” should refer to where we are going – although sometimes people talk about “vision” as an intended future state. “Mission” generally refers to why we are going that way – that is, what role you intend your organization will take in society. In many cases, strategies (as used in Simplified Strategic Planning) do an excellent job of describing “vision”, while the mission statement codifies “mission” quite well.

For your own strategic planning, you should be aware that the process and its outcomes are more important that the terminology you use. One of the beauties of Simplified Strategic Planning is that all of the tools in the process have been tested, tweaked and re-worked over more than twenty-five years to produce tools that will help you generate great strategy regardless of the terminology.

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