Vision, Mission, Goals, Objectives, Roadmap, Plans, Milestones, Policies
In Strategy Basics we touched on multiple related words and based on the feedback they deserve their own post with examples to build a common language.
This post is part of a series about tech strategy WHY, HOW, WHAT. Subscribe to get the latest part directly in your mailbox for free.
Note: I’m teaming up with ChatGPT to bounce ideas, generate examples and utilize its massive training model to nail the definitions. Please let me know in the comments how we did. 🤖🤝👨🦲
Vision and Mission
When an organization doesn’t have a clear vision and mission (or fails to communicate it), the left hand doesn’t talk to the right hand! Actions are haphazard and teams have their own self-motivated agenda that often conflicts with others.
It is not efficient, when everyone is pulling in different directions.
Vision and mission are high level concepts that unite the organization toward an overall direction and purpose:
👀 The vision of an organization is its long-term goal it hopes to achieve and the future state it strives to create. The vision is focused on provides a sense of long term direction and doesn’t change that often.
🤝 The mission of an organization is its overall purpose or reason for existing. It is about people and actions to fulfill the vision. It is a statement of the organization's values and the impact it hopes to have on the world. The mission guides the present state toward the future state. It provides the framework for the organization's activities and operations.
Here’s how the Oxford dictionary defines these words:
Vision: the ability to think about or plan the future with imagination or wisdom
Mission: an important assignment given to a person or group of people
The way I remember the difference is like this:
Vision: paints a picture of the future world we want to contribute to build. For example: “We envision a world where…”
Mission: says what’s our role in building that world. For example: “Everything we do is aligned with our mission to…”
Vision creates a distant carrot; mission is for the rabbits!
🗺️Strategy is a tool of alignment to get the rabbits to the carrot! 🥕
Prompt to ChatGPT: The auto industry is facing multiple challenges:
Sustainability and geopolitics motivate switching from ICE (internal combustion engine) to EV (electric vehicle).
Electrification brought a more powerful computer onboard which puts the software at the core of the car experience.
The car is connected to the mobility providers who define the end-to-end customer experience from hailing to payment or subscription.
Fully autonomous driving cars reduce the need to own the car. The car is rapidly turning from a symbol of prestige into a means to safely, quickly and affordably get from A to B.
Create a vision and mission statement for a traditional ICE car manufacturer which wants to survive these challenges and thrive in tomorrow's mobility ecosystem.
Vision: To be a leader in the evolution of the automotive industry, delivering sustainable, innovative and customer-focused mobility solutions that enhance people's lives.
Mission: To leverage our expertise in traditional internal combustion engines and our commitment to sustainability to develop a range of electric and hybrid vehicles that meet the diverse needs of our customers.
We will continuously invest in research and development to stay at the forefront of technological advancements and will work closely with mobility providers to create seamless and convenient transportation experiences for our users.
We are committed to being a trusted and responsible partner in shaping the future of mobility, and to building a profitable and sustainable business that benefits all stakeholders.
Simon Sinek recommends not to get stuck in the definition of mission and vision. Instead shift mindset to think about the just cause with these attributes:
Resilient: can withstand cultural, political and technological change
Inclusive: formed as an invitation for the people who believe what you believe, regardless of their job title
Service oriented: helps leaders make decisions that primarily help those they lead
Here’s more information (with illustrations and video) on this mindset.
Goals and Objectives
Vision, goals and objectives are of the same type: they all set WHAT we want to achieve. Their main difference is their time frame which impacts the amount of detail they have and how actionable they are:
👀 Vision is aspirational and less detailed because it tries to paint a picture of a future we can’t predict but want to build. (Usually 5+ years)
🎯 Goals are specific, measurable targets that an organization aims to achieve in order to fulfill its vision in alignment with its mission. Goals are the intermediate steps. (Usually 1-5 years)
⤴️ Objectives are specific, measurable targets that an organization sets in order to achieve its goals. (Usually for 1-4 quarters)
Linguistically speaking, goals and objectives are synonyms. So, if we want to distinguish between the two to refer to intermediate and short term targets respectively, OKR comes handy.
Objectives & Key Results are usually more concrete than goals and have metrics assigned to them to track the progress. Goals usually don’t enjoy the same level of detail and traceability.
A single goal can be broken to different objectives to align different teams that have a role in fulfilling it.
Prompt to ChatGPT: Can you create some goals based on the previous vision?
Some potential goals based on the vision and mission statement could include:
Launch a range of electric and hybrid vehicles within the next 3-5 years, with a focus on meeting the diverse needs of our customers.
Invest in research and development to stay at the forefront of technological advancements and to continuously improve our products and services.
Partner with leading mobility providers to create seamless and convenient transportation experiences for our users.
Develop a comprehensive sustainability strategy that reduces our environmental impact and supports the transition to a low-carbon economy.
Foster a culture of innovation, collaboration and customer focus to drive continuous improvement and growth.
Achieve profitability and financial stability while upholding the highest standards of ethics and integrity.
Can you create some OKRs with metrics and desired thresholds for the next quarter on becoming a software driven car company?
Sure, here are some example OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) with metrics and desired thresholds for the next quarter on becoming a software driven car company:
Objective: Increase the number of software-driven features in our vehicles
Key Result: Implement at least 5 new software-driven features in our vehicles
Metric: Number of software-driven features implemented
Desired threshold: 5 or more
Objective: Improve the usability and reliability of our software-driven features
Key Result: Reduce the number of software-related issues reported by customers by 50%
Metric: Number of software-related issues reported by customers
Desired threshold: 50% reduction
Objective: Enhance the overall customer experience with our software-driven features
Key Result: Increase customer satisfaction with software-driven features by at least 20%
Metric: Customer satisfaction with software-driven features
Desired threshold: 20% increase
Objective: Increase the efficiency of our software development process
Key Result: Decrease the time it takes to develop and roll out new software-driven features by 25%
Metric: Time it takes to develop and roll out new software-driven features
Desired threshold: 25% reduction
Roadmap, Plan and Milestones
🗺️ Roadmap outlines the steps an organization will take to achieve its goals and objectives
⌚ Plan is a more concrete version of the roadmap with details about the timeline and resources
🚩 Milestones are key events or achievements that mark significant progress towards the completion of goals or objectives
Linguistically speaking, roadmap and plan are synonyms so if we are to distinguish between the two, we can think of the roadmap as a map with a marked path. The path itself doesn’t tell how long it takes for us to navigate or what equipment or resources are needed. That detail is left to the plan.
Roadmap lays out WHAT steps should be taken
Plan adds details on WHO will take those steps and WHEN
Roadmap is useful as an executive summary to paint a high-level picture where we’re going, whereas plan is more actionable and concrete.
Just a reminder: a plan is not a strategy. Neither are the roadmap or milestones. A good strategy has coherent actions as discussed in strategy basics.
Prompt to ChatGPT: Could you create a roadmap for those objectives?
Sure, here is a high-level roadmap for the previously mentioned OKRs:
Conduct market research to identify customer needs and trends in software-driven features
Define and prioritize a list of software-driven features to be implemented
Assemble a cross-functional team to develop and test the software-driven features
Develop a plan to roll out the software-driven features to customers
Begin implementing the software-driven features as planned
Monitor and track the performance and usage of the software-driven features
Collect and analyze customer feedback on the software-driven features
Make any necessary adjustments or improvements based on customer feedback
Continue implementing and rolling out the software-driven features
Continue monitoring and tracking the performance and usage of the software-driven features
Review and analyze the results of the software-driven features and make any necessary adjustments or improvements
Prepare for the next quarter's software-driven feature development and implementation efforts.
As you can see ChatGPT’s added the time element on the roadmap which is not fully aligned with keeping the roadmap focused on the steps and leave the time & resources to the plan. 🙂ChatGPT knows that:
Prompt to ChatGPT: is there a difference between plan and roadmap?
Yes, there is a difference between a plan and a roadmap. A plan is a detailed and specific course of action that outlines the steps needed to achieve a particular goal or objective. A plan typically includes specific goals, resources, and timelines and is often used to guide the day-to-day activities and decision-making of an organization.
A roadmap, on the other hand, is a high-level overview of a plan or strategy that outlines the key milestones and steps needed to achieve a broader vision or long-term goal. A roadmap is often used to communicate the overall direction and progress of a plan or strategy to stakeholders and to help align resources and efforts towards a common goal. A roadmap is typically more flexible and may be updated as the plan or strategy evolves or as circumstances change.
Prompt to ChatGPT: What would be the key milestones along that roadmap?
Some potential key milestones along the roadmap could include:
Completion of market research and identification of software-driven features to be implemented
Assembling and training of the cross-functional team
Development and testing of software-driven features
Rollout of software-driven features to a small group of customers for testing and feedback
Full rollout of software-driven features to all customers
Collection and analysis of customer feedback on software-driven features
Making necessary adjustments or improvements based on customer feedback
Review and analysis of overall results and performance of software-driven features
Planning for the next quarter's software-driven feature development and implementation efforts.
In the context of strategy, a policy is a set of guidelines or principles that are designed to guide decision-making and actions within an organization. In the words of Richard P. Rumelt:
The guiding policy specifies the approach to dealing with the obstacles called out in the diagnosis. It is like a signpost, marking the direction forward but not defining the details of the trip.
Policies are related to mission in the sense that they both touch on how we strive to fulfill the mission. Mission is more high level and doesn’t change that often, but policy is more rigid and can be reviewed as the needs evolve.
Policies can be formalized in writing to establish process and guidelines and may be included in an organization's mission statement, code of conduct, or other formal documents. They are typically developed and implemented by senior leadership and may be reviewed and updated on a regular basis to ensure that they are aligned with the organization's goals and values.
Prompt to ChatGPT: Could you write an example policy that supports our mission and vision?
Sure, here is an example policy that could support the mission and vision of a traditional ICE car manufacturer looking to thrive in tomorrow's mobility ecosystem:
Policy: Sustainable Manufacturing Practices
Purpose: To reduce the environmental impact of our manufacturing processes and to support the transition to a low-carbon economy.
Scope: This policy applies to all manufacturing activities and facilities operated by [Company Name]
Reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions by implementing energy-efficient technologies and processes
Increase the use of renewable energy sources in our manufacturing processes
Develop and implement a waste reduction and recycling program
Use materials that are environmentally friendly and can be recycled or reused whenever possible
Encourage suppliers to adopt sustainable manufacturing practices
Monitor and report on the environmental impact of our manufacturing processes on a regular basis
This policy will be communicated to all employees and stakeholders
All manufacturing activities and facilities will be required to comply with this policy
A sustainability team will be responsible for implementing and monitoring the policy
The sustainability team will report on the progress and impact of this policy on a regular basis
This policy will be reviewed and updated on an annual basis.
A general theme is the levels of abstraction:
High-level and abstract: vision, mission
Intermediate-level: goals, roadmap, milestones, policies
Low-level and detailed: objectives, plan
Do we need different levels? We do.
Stakeholders: not every stakeholder is interested or can consume different levels of abstraction. For example, the leadership may be more interested in the high-level abstractions and leave the details to the teams. The engineers may need more detailed and actionable guidelines that helps unblock the immediate decisions.
Predictability: the more concrete concepts like objectives and plans are more detailed, but it’s hard to predict too far into the future due to the unknowns. e.g. It is hard (and dumb) to try to plan too far into the future because of the complexity of open markets, geopolitics, regulations and other factors like natural disasters, pandemics, etc. Any effort to do so will create an illusion of control, which increases the risk of failure unnecessarily.
Focus: the lower levels are more flexible and can be adjusted as the clarity evolves but we need the higher-level abstractions to keep the eyes on the target. e.g. if the company’s vision is to be the top provider of mobility and 2 years into the strategy a groundbreaking e-fuel technology changes the market equation, it’d be dumb to continue towards EV. The goal of producing 2 new EV models in the next 18 months can be replaced with something else. But the company still aims to be the top mobility provider regardless of the tech or intermediate goals.
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That's another great post Alex.
The one thing I'm confused about though is – then what is the "strategy" for this fictious car company? Is it the collection of all of the above (Vision, Mission, etc)?
That's what it smells like to me – given that from the vision/mission part you can deduce "Why", Policies give you "How, and "What" can be found across goals, objectives, plan. Or am I off base?
But it would be great if you could add a "strategy" example to this post as well to make it crystal clear.