We are all using the same words but we mean so many different things.

This comes up frequently in my research, my general discussions about my research and in my consulting work. Whilst I have already written that at the heart of this issue is not the particular jargon but the organisational understanding of the jargon, it is worthwhile to give a simplistic view as a start point.

*What I mean by that comment is that it doesn’t really matter which term you use, what matters is that when you say it that everyone in your organisation associates the same meaning and application as you do. Beware of assuming that your staff or colleagues have your exact definition.

So here is the simplistic view;

Mission = Why
Vision = What and/or Where
Strategy = How

Your mission is why the business exists, high level purpose. Usually starts with “to…” Across industries it is common for businesses to have the same or very similar missions. For example in insurance the mission or purpose of the organisation will be something around the protection of the clients wealth, livelihood etc

Your vision is what you want to build or where you want to take the business. These are the goals of the business, how big and how great the business is going to be who it is going to serve and what market position you want it to occupy etc

Your strategy is the ‘how’ you are going to achieve your vision and in the business context how you are going to create / maintain a competitive advantage. If your strategy does not explain clearly your ‘how’ then it is not a strategy and more likely a goal. E.g “to be the best in our space” or “to achieve 30% market share” or “to be the number one choice of our clients” – these are visions or goals but not strategies.

The puzzling thing is that I hear people using the word correctly everyday away from the business context, even in my children, “my strategy for winning in Mindcraft is to build the house first and then fight the zombies”. However for some reason when we move into the business arena we lose our understanding of the term and mash it into goals, visions and wish lists.

So next time to hear someone give their strategy, or you give yours – if the how is not immediately clear then they (or you) you may have missed the mark.

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