Strategic planning can provide the geometry for organizational alignment, the blueprint for sustained brilliance. It has never been more important to provide alignment for maximum focus and effectiveness. In a polarized world we need the discerning wisdom possible in strategic plans that promote human connection while encouraging diversity and human brilliance.
Here, I am updating the glossary of strategic terminology I published six years ago, to provide a clearer outline — addressing contemporary challenges to organizational effectiveness. This outline reflects the order in which I facilitate the strategic planning process, with the goals of insightful guidance to every employee and sustainable brilliance throughout the organization.
Mission: The mission states the difference the organization intends to make in the lives of those it serves (i.e., all stakeholders, especially customers). By its nature, mission is simple, directional, differentiating and relational. It often states a distinctive competence that is highly valued by stakeholders.
Vision: By its nature, vision is generative, aspirational and inspirational. Vision is developed with “future perfect” thinking and it serves as a check on mission clarity. A vision statement can be a set or summary of descriptions that express how the world will be when the mission is fully and competently operating. The descriptions may be written from the perspective of the various stakeholders.
Strategic Goals: Strategic goals clarify the mission and identify the high-level things that must be done to fulfill the mission. As form follows function, organization design generally reflects the strategic goals. Strategic goals may be displayed as clarifying phrases below the mission statement. Performance objectives are subsets of the strategic goals, identifying operational gaps and culture development opportunities that have significant importance at the time the strategic plan is conceived. They are priorities for special investments, projects or initiatives that increase performance capacity. When stakeholders effectively address these performance objectives, the organization transcends “best”.
Core Virtues (Human Values): The principals or standards of ethical behavior deemed to be essential throughout the culture for associating with the mission. Core virtues serve as guidelines for personal behavior, leadership, and teamwork. Leadership is fundamentally about pursuit of worthy goals with actions and investments correlated with mission, vision and goals. Without core virtues, there is a high probability for disproportionate and unfair treatment of certain individuals and groups, and erosion in the power of We. Organizations without constant adherence to core virtues may emulate superficial authority, but lack leadership.
Guiding Strategies: Strategies express how the organization should operate in alignment with the mission. Strategies are wise guidelines, keys to success, rules to live by …wisdom for creating the desired future (e.g., vision). Guiding strategies are developed for the priority activities needed to achieve the mission (e.g., customer relations, quality of service, training and development, communications, teamwork, recruiting, compensation, marketing, product development, performance measurement, financial resources, public relations, and decision making). Strategies are put into place – strategic goals are achieved, mission and vision are fulfilled – through a series of tactical actions.
Tactics: These are the specific investments, action steps, projects or programs that the organization chooses to take: to accomplish its goals, in accordance with the strategies, in pursuit of its mission and vision. Exceptional leadership, project management and teamwork are required to translate a list of priority tactics into accountable, implementable endeavor.
One of the power secrets of strategic leadership is this: Once the stakeholders understand the mission, vision, strategic goals, core virtues, and guiding strategies, the entire stakeholder community consciously employs this knowledge in action, dialogue and decision-making daily.