The difference between mission, vision, goals, objectives and strategy

When it comes to talking strategy, I’ve always struggled with the nuances between missions and visions, goals and objectives; and even what exactly a strategy actually is.

Whilst they all sound like they do more or less the same thing, in reality each one plays a different role in helping organisations move forward and grow; so to help me remember I’ve created this quick reference cheat sheet:

Strategy cheat sheet

In a nutshell…

The Vision is your North Star and paints a tangible pen portrait of where your organisation ultimately wants to get in the future.

The Mission explains at a very high level what you organisation does (your purpose) in order to reach the Vision and the Core values describe the way the organisation should behave as it carries out its Mission.

Goals are high-level milestones that must be achieved to make reaching the Vision possible and Objectives are the more detailed milestones that are required to reach a Goal.

Activities are the things people in the organisation must do to meet their Objectives (and subsequently their Goals).

Strategies are more complex than a standalone decision or a goal; a Strategy brings together a coherent set of analysis, challenges, policies, positioning statements and activities to reach a specific goal or the overall vision.

Further reading

Here’s a more in-depth look at setting Vision, Mission and Strategy.