Vision, mission and objectives
Following on the series of business planning related blog posts (see ‘What a good business plan looks like?’, ‘Developing a Business Planning Process’, Some Business Planning ‘Top Tips’, Personal Case Study, Some Recommended Books, Professional Service Leverage Models and a worked example of leverage), this post looks at a key element of any business plan: your vision, mission and objectives.
You may use alternative labels (don’t allow yourself to get too hung up on terms used) but vision–mission–objectives (VMO) describes a coherent hierarchy, or flow, from a longer term, aspirational image to the SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-bound) targets of ‘here and now’.
Taking each in turn. Your vision statement sits at the top of your strategic planning process. It should be a short, captivating statement that articulates the idealised end point you seek. It might describe the desired state of the business at this point, the client situation or, indeed, the world in which it operates. It should be long-term, emotive and designed to be a source of energy and inspiration. Good vision statements will leave some room for individual interpretation and be of a quality that always seeks for you to reach beyond your everyday grasp.
A mission statement is more grounded, in that it should describe the fundamental purpose of your organisation; that is, why it exists and what it does to achieve its vision. To be successful and enduring, a professional service firm must ultimately serve three key constituencies: its owners, its clients and its people. As such, professional service firm mission statements invariably have three dimensions facing each:
Finally, objectives. I commend you to have a balanced set that addresses all of your three core constituencies, but keep it simple; certainly no more than eight. These objectives need to be SMART as they are the items you measure and analyse obsessively – asking yourself: did you achieve them, if not why not, what lessons were learned in the process, how can you improve performance in this objective area? In that this objective plan–measure–analyse–learn cycle is core to any successful business, so taking your time in this first objective-setting iteration is time very well spent.
By way of illustration, the Case Study below looks at a typical cascade of vision–mission–objectives. It should go without saying, however, that this thinking needs to be tailored to, and owned by, you (and your team).
CASE STUDY: VMO at Moorhouse Consulting
The vision–mission–objective cascade for Moorhouse would be revisited annually during our planning round. Its format, as of the inaugural start-up plan, was structured along the lines shown below (clearly, with actual numbers!). Over time the objective set evolved but there was a key principle to have no more than eight primary corporate objectives such that we didn’t dilute our attention away from core items.
If you are interested in re-charging your business ambition/strategy/plans, Dom runs his (three-day) Five-Year Entrepreneur Retreat twice a year (March, September) – see here for previous delegate testimonials and details on future presentations. If you would like to make a reservation (capped to 14 attendees per Retreat) please drop a line via the contact page.
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