Which Comes First: Vision Or Mission?

Posted by Rick DeMarco on 10 September 2015

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Employee engagement is one of the most significant challenges facing organizations today. In order for companies to deliver exceptional customer experiences, they must create a culture in which employees understand, believe in and are committed to achieving the vision and delivering on the strategy / brand promise. But before you can begin to address a strategy or programs to create that culture of engagement, there must be alignment of the vision, culture, and business strategy within the organization.

As we talk to clients about their strategic planning process, we hear repeatedly that there is some confusion over the difference between vision and mission, strategy and tactics, and the role of culture in helping to facilitate action plans. We believe that the process starts with a clear vision. It’s hard to engage people unless they know where you’re going.  Vision is inherently future-oriented.  Think about the vision painted by Martin Luther King, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character”. Another example is the vision from the U.S. space program in the 1960’s, “landing a man on the moon”. In both of these cases, their vision drove the development of a mission, strategy, and tactics. It represented a very clear view of a desired future. Once that vision is defined and articulated, you can begin to build the other dimensions of the planning process that will become the foundation for engaging and inspiring all team members.

After much spirited debate and discussion, we decided to put stake in the ground and created a simple diagram that defines each element of the strategic planning process and their relationship to each other. This is how we see the relationship and the flow from vision to tactics:



We would love to hear your thoughts on this subject and engage in a discussion about these principles of planning. We’ve talked to many organizations that have never really defined their vision, or others where the vision is defined differently among the company’s departments, serving as a barrier to a company united around a common cause. We would also love to hear examples you might have of organizations who have done a great job at driving this process from vision to tactical planning.

We will share this blog on our Linked-in pages and invite you to comment and engage in a healthy discussion. Or you can send your thoughts directly to me at rick@inwardconsulting.com