What is this Vision, Mission and Objectives thing all about?

There is much written about the importance and desirability of having a vision, mission and objectives for your business but what is it really all about? In reality, it is simply a framework for understanding both long-term and short-term aims for your business and the underlying reasons why you take on the hassle of running a business at all.

Lots of business owners see it as an academic exercise that must be completed as part of the business planning process. However, it is more fundamental than that. It is also much easier to understand when you simplify it into its individual components and you view it as a set of steps with the owner or CEO overseeing each step from the top of the staircase.

It really starts on the top step, where the CEO oversees the business he is creating or running. He must start by examining his core values – that part of him that is at the very core of his being – and he must come to understand what drives him to get out of bed in the morning; what motivates him to go to work each day; the values he holds and the standards he adopts that are immutable and never change; how he views people and contribution; how he sees himself as a leader, a boss, a father, a husband, a friend and a community member.

His vision is a single step down and it evolves from his core values and it paints a picture of his long-term goals for his business, his family/friends and himself. It is molded by whom he is and what he hopes to achieve in the longer-term or in his lifetime. In effect, it is the endgame he is pursuing. It might be to make $5mm and then retire to his condo on the beach. It could be to create a legacy for his kids to embrace and take to the next level. Or it might be far simpler, such as gaining a sense of achievement that he may be proud of.

Once this vision is cast in stone, he needs to step down to examine the purpose or mission of his business. The mission is broader than just him and usually embraces some or all of the stakeholders in the business. He crafts it into a mission statement that is a public profession of what the business as an entity believes in, the people or businesses it will serve, how it will strive to achieve his vision for the business, and the standards it will espouse. The mission is best developed in conjunction with his management team, which gets an opportunity to contribute to and create buy-in to the mission and the underlying culture of the business.

The next step down in the process is defining how the mission will be realized. The management team needs to decide a broad list of objectives or goals that will help them realize the mission and the vision. Normally, these objectives will embrace key functions such as people, process, finance, sales and marketing.

Once the objectives have been agreed, the management team needs to take a further step down to discuss the strategies they must put in place and embrace so that the objectives may be consistently met. This is in effect the game plan for every major action the business plans to take.

Tactics are all the little actions that need to be taken in support of the strategies and on the next level down, milestones must be set and shared so that progress can be measured and corrective action can be taken if there is any deviation from the plan. Each milestone should be clearly articulated, assigned to someone who will be responsible for its delivery, and it must be time dated so that it is not just something on a wish list that never gets executed.

In essence, this simple Vision, Mission and Objectives framework that we all know, becomes a coherent business plan that everyone works to. The smallest step taken at the bottom of the staircase is like a ripple when a stone is thrown into a pond – it has an impact on everything else within its ecosystem.

Niall Strickland
CEO HowsMyBusinessDoing.com