Did you ever struggle with all the confusion about Vision, Mission, Objective, Goal and Strategies? Those words are sometimes used interchangeably and sometimes bear a specific meaning to those using them. If you google VMOSA, which stands for Vision, Mission, Objective, Strategies & Actions, you may find different definitions…
I am usually not in favor of reinventing the wheel neither add more confusion to something, but this time I decided to craft my own definition of the VMOSA suite.
Vision is the big picture of what we dream about and want to achieve. It is an ambition, but a serious one. Like standing before an empty space in the middle ages and decide to build a cathedral right there. The initiators may not see the vision being accomplished in their lifetime, but they will work hard so that it will, some day in the future.
- Google’s corporate vision is “to provide access to the world’s information in one click.”
- Amazon.com vision is “to be earth’s most customer-centric company; to build a place where people can come to find and discover anything they might want to buy online.”
The mission is “how” to achieve the vision, how to contribute for the vision to become a reality. The mission somehow explains the purpose* or “raison d’être” of an organization and usually is “the business we’re in”.
- Google’s corporate mission is “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”
- Amazon’s mission statement is “We strive to offer our customers the lowest possible prices, the best available selection, and the utmost convenience.”
*Purpose is another of such terms used. The purpose explains why or what for an organization exists / was created.
Vision and Mission statement may sometimes be very close, hence the confusion between vision and mission. The mission statement is (usually) more concise than a vision statement and is more outcome-oriented. The mission is expressed in broad terms and does not give too many details about how-to.
Objective(s) or Goal(s)
When stated using singular, the objective or goal is the ultimate milestone to complete the mission. It is the finish line and there can be only one.
When stated using plural, objectives or goals are “intermediate objectives”, milestones along the way to the finish line. They can be considered as waypoints guiding the journey towards the Goal, the ultimate milestone at the finish line.
Strategies are the ways to achieve the mission. Although an organization will have just one vision statement and one mission statement, it may have several strategies. The strategies can be different by country, by product segment, the can change over time in order to adjust to competition.
An action plan or implementation plan describes the detailed actions necessary to achieve the (intermediate) objectives, to whom they are assigned, the due dates and linkage if there are some dependencies, etc.
Values are not listed in the VMOSA suite, but they are important as they drive and constraint behaviors during the journey to achieve the Goal. Values influence the strategies, the ethics. Values mark the boundaries of the “flight domain”, i.e. the fair game playground vs. the forbidden zone where our ethics do not allow to play.
You may have different definitions and understandings of these words, what is important is to make their meaning clear when communicating with others.