Building the Strategic Plan: Part 1

Now comes the fun part of the strategic planning process, building the plan.

A strategic plan should contain elements of “want to do’s” but must contain the “need to do’s.” So how do we figure this out?

The most important tool we can use is the SWOT analysis. As I described in a previous Reflection, the SWOT analysis gives us a true and real description of what is going on with our organization.

When I get started with the building process, I like to take time to revel in the successes of our Strengths. As we review our strengths, I like to look at growth trajectories of our successes and truly understand what we do well. As part of this step, it is time to build some strategic goals that address these strengths. That is, what are some short- to intermediate-term objectives that improves what we already do well or actions to maintain strengths?

As I described previously, a strategic goal should have a time frame and some quantification of what needs to be done. That is, a strategic goal is an objective that should take 2-5 years to accomplish. However, it should not be a description of a specific task or a specific list of identified tasks. Identified tasks, in my framework, are tactical measures. At this stage, I like to have everything developed as strategic goals. And, the more strategic goals that are written, the better. It doesn’t matter if the goals are similar or address the same issue. Go ahead and write them down. In a later part of the process, we will talk about how to whittle down the strategic goals. The main thing is to get them all down for now.

It is typical for most of us to develop tactical measures instead of developing strategic goals. Tactical measures describe things we do. What I like to do is to keep the tactical measures and associate them with strategic goals that have been already developed. However, it is essential that the primary task at this stage is to develop strategic goals.

The next thing to do is to review the Threats. Threats are the external forces that can negatively impact our organization. For all threats, I like to address each with three questions:

  1. Can one of our Strengths address this threat?
  2. Can improvement of one of our Weaknesses address this threat?
  3. Can action on an Opportunity address this threat?

If the answer to any of these three questions includes a “yes,” then we can do something about it.

If all three answers are “no,” then the question is whether or not the threat addresses the fundamental mission of the organization. If it does, then we have to ask the question of why we are not doing something to address this threat. Can we do something and what would it entail? How would it mesh with our Strengths, Weaknesses, and Opportunities? Was it something we had missed in the SWOT analysis?

If we are absolutely sure that there is nothing we can do about this external threat, then we should monitor the threat and otherwise ignore it. It is a waste of time, energy, and emotional strength to focus on that about which we can do nothing. I must admit that I have come across very few threats in this category.

Threats are best addressed by identified Strengths and Weaknesses (“yes” to above question 1 or 2). The reason is simple; we are already doing something that addresses the threat. We may be doing something well (Strength) or not-so-well (Weakness), but we are already doing something. At this point, we should be writing out strategic goals that address the threats.

Next, we should address the Weaknesses:

  1. Can one of the Strengths address this weakness?
  2. Can we improve what we currently do to address this weakness?
  3. Can action on an Opportunity address this weakness?

If the answer to question 4 is “yes,” that is terrific. What we need to do is to develop strategic goals that amplify the Strengths to address the Weakness. If the answer to question 5 is “yes,” then this is also terrific. What it says is that we can develop some strategic goals that involve work we are already doing. Again, I think it is perfectly appropriate to write out strategic goals that may be similar to ones developed previously. The key is to get the strategic goal written.

If the answers to question 6 is a “yes” or if the answers to questions 4, 5, and 6 are “no,” then we need to develop strategic goals about things we currently do not do. This can be challenging in that it asks us to look beyond our current scope. At the same time, it can be exciting to look at new opportunities and actions. Regardless, as the mantra goes, write down the strategic goals.

Now, we should look at Opportunities. There are two components for analyzing Opportunities. First, does this opportunity fit with our mission? If the Opportunity fits our mission, then, what are the strategic goals that address this Opportunity? If the Opportunity does not fit out current mission, but is part of the vision of what we do, then we need to ask the questions (a) do we need to revise our mission and (b) should we incorporate some “nice-to-have” strategic goals that address this Opportunity.

Lastly, we should ask ourselves, are there new strategic initiatives that we want to achieve that was not addressed in the SWOT analysis? In my experience, many of the most exciting ideas can come from this discussion. As far as Opportunities and new initiatives are concerned, I believe that we should document them and include them in the discussion. The more ideas, the richer the strategic aims will be when we develop them.

At this stage, what we should have is a list of many strategic goals. In some cases, it is not unusual to have lists of a couple hundred strategic goals. Many of these goals have associated tactical measures as well.

The next question is how to take this huge list and pare it down to a Strategic Plan. This will be the topic of a subsequent Reflection.

Note: The views in this commentary are my own and not necessarily those of my institution, employer, or colleagues.

 

The Terms in Strategic Planning

This week, I will step back into the discussion of strategic planning. To date, we have discussed my view of mission/vision statements and how they guide the process of developing a strategic plan. The next step was to do a SWOT analysis, one based on reality and data. The next step is to develop a Strategic Plan. There are steps after creating a strategic plan which are also essential. They are developing the tactical plans, implementation, and review. We will address those points later.

I must admit that I am an advocate of the Rule of Threes. In writing, rhetoric, and public speaking, it is alleged that people remember things in threes better than in any number combination. When I do planning, I tend to revert to using three items as the default number of items in a category. So, for each strategic plan, I start out with three main strategic aims, three strategic goals for each aim, and three tactical measures for each aim. It is critical that we are not bound into three items. Sometimes there are more; sometimes there are less. But, it is a good place to start.

But, before we start, let us define some terms – at least the way I use them. In a later Reflection, I will describe how I build a Strategic Plan using these terms.

Strategy vs. tactics

There is an abundance of literature regarding the differences between strategy and tactics. This is a crucial difference that must be understood. In the way I look at the world, a strategy is a long-term, broad-based objective. It is a description of what we want to achieve in the long-run. A tactic is a short-term focused action designed to achieve a specific goal.

Strategic aim

When developing a strategic plan, I like to have three (remember, Rule of Threes) Strategic Aims. These are the three main long-term objectives we want to reach. Sometimes there are more Strategic Aims; sometimes there are fewer. The key is that the Strategic Aim is the broad description of the direction in which we want to go. In my view, there should be minimal overlap between Strategic Aims. The combination of all the strategic aims is the compilation of the Strategic Plan.

I like to have strategic aims that are broad, action based, and aggressive. For example, “Increase diversity within the medical school” or “Enrich technology-based education within the medical school.”

Strategic goal

For each strategic aim, I start thinking about having three Strategic Goals. Again, the actual, final number of strategic goals will vary, but I like to start out with three. Strategic goals are subsets of a strategic aim. These are more focused and directed in the short- and intermediate-term. The combination of all the strategic goals should lead to the strategic aim coming about.

In my experience, it is useful to put a time frame and quantification on some (not all) strategic goals. The time frame tells you “how long” and the quantification tells you “by how much.” For example, “Increase enrollment of Hispanic, Latino, and Spanish-origin students by 100% in the next five years” or “Create technology-enhanced small group sessions in all first year courses within five years.”

Tactical measure

Tactical measures are activities we do to make strategic goals come about. These are designed for the immediate- and short-term. Thus, a group of tactical measures are the things we do to accomplish our strategic goals. By accomplishing our strategic goals, we achieve a strategic aim. By addressing all our strategic aims, we succeed with a strategic plan.

Tactical measures must have timelines and specific objectives. For example, “Triple recruitment trips to undergraduate institutions with large populations of Hispanic, Latino, and Spanish-origin students next academic year” or “Ensure all classrooms in which small group sessions are conducted have the same technology.”

When developing tactical measures, there are five components that must exist for each tactical measure:

  1. Timeline: What is the timeline is which this tactical measure is to be completed? In my opinion, tactical timelines should be never be longer than five years for full implementation and typically should be about 2-3 years maximum. Timelines of one year are appropriate for most tactical measures. It doesn’t mean that the tactical measure needs to be done now; it can be done a year from now. But the duration and time it takes to accomplish should be limited.
  2. Action: What is the specific action that is going to be taken? The details need to be developed within the tactical measure, but doesn’t need to be listed in the title of the measure.
  3. Implementation Process: Who is responsible for getting it done? Who is responsible for evaluating it? And what steps are needed to make this tactical measure happen?
  4. Resource Requirement: What resources (financial, personnel, space, transportation, etc.) are needed? Is this going to require a budget (New? Reallocation of finances?) If you need personnel, are these new slots? If they are not new slots, then who is going to do the work that they otherwise would have done?
  5. Evaluation Parameter: How often does the status of this activity need to be reported and to whom? What is the measure of success?

Timelines

I like to think of four timelines for strategic plans. They are:

  • Immediate-term: Within the next 12 months.
  • Short-term: Within 2-3 years.
  • Intermediate-term: Within 5 years.
  • Long-term: A horizon of about 10 years.

I don’t know about other industries, but higher education is rapidly changing and there is simply no good way for me to predict or know what is happening in the next few years, much less in the next decade. Therefore, I like to keep timelines relatively short and with goals that I can achieve within those timelines. I admit that some things do not change and are more amenable to longer timelines, but that is atypical of my experiences.

Conclusion

You could think of an outline for a strategic plan as follows:

Strategic Plan

A.  Strategic Aim A

  1. Strategic Goal A.1
    1. Tactical Measure A.1.a
    2. Tactical Measure A.1.b
    3. Tactical Measure A.1.c
  2. Strategic Goal A.2
    1. Tactical Measure A.2.a
    2. Tactical Measure A.2.b
    3. Tactical Measure A.2.c

B.  Strategic Aim B

  1. Strategic Goal B.1
  2. Strategic Goal B.2
  3. Strategic Goal B.3

Using the examples we have above:

Strategic Plan

A. Increase diversity within the medical school.

  1. Increase enrollment of Hispanic, Latino, and Spanish-origin students by 100% in the next five years.
    1. Triple recruitment trips to undergraduate institutions with large populations of Hispanic, Latino, and Spanish-origin students next academic year.
    2. Increase participation of Hispanic, Latino, and Spanish origin students in recruiting trips.
  2. Increase enrollment of non-Hispanic Black students by 200% in the next five years.
    1. Refocus recruitment trips of non-Hispanic Black students to schools that have students that apply to our institution.
    2. Develop on-campus activities that highlight achievements of non-Hispanic Black students.
  3. Increase unrepresented minority faculty by 100% in the next ten years.
    1. Increase recruitment of underrepresented minority postdoctoral fellows into faculty positions

B. Enrich technology-based education within the medical school.

  1. Create technology-enhanced small group sessions in all first year courses within five years.
    1. Ensure all classrooms in which small group sessions are conducted have the same technology.
    2. Recruit six course directors to use technology-enhanced small group sessions in the next academic year.
    3. Provide technical support to faculty doing small group sessions before and during all sessions.

This Reflection is focused on developing the basic definitions that underlie a Strategic Plan. In the next Reflection, I will describe the process I have used to actually put a Plan together using the elements described here.

Note: The views in this commentary are my own and not necessarily those of my institution, employer, or colleagues.

Why SWOT

Anyone who has gone through the semblance of a strategic planning process will likely have participating in (or at least read about) a SWOT analysis. A Google search on the term “SWOT analysis” yields just about 5.5 million results. Wikipedia (not usually my “go to” resource) has a rather lengthy discussion of the utility and description of SWOT. So, I am not going to review material that is easily found elsewhere. Rather, I am going to reflect upon some of the concepts I have learned in doing many SWOT analyses.

SWOT – Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats.

Strengths and weaknesses are internal to the organization. That is, strengths are those things we do well; weaknesses are things that we need to do better (to meet our mission).

Opportunities and threats are external to the organization. That is, opportunities are those things that we can leverage to enhance what we do (to meet our mission) and threats are those things external to the organization that can prevent us from accomplishing our mission.

There are many things that one can do with the SWOT analyses and they can be used to manage projects. I will focus on some issues which have guided the best SWOT analyses on which I have worked.

Many analyses go awry because they deal with peripheral issues and not those that are central to the organization. The SWOT must deal with the mission of the organization as guided by the vision. That is, the factors are issues related to what it is that we are and do (mission) as driven by our core values (vision). We may do many things and some of them we may do very well. But, if those things are not part of the mission, we should acknowledge them but they should not make it into the SWOT.

And yes, it depends on how we define our mission.

Let’s take an example of a medical school which has a program that successfully provides food to children in their local area who are in need of food. I think we can all agree that this is a humanitarian exemplary and should be acknowledged.

School A has nutrition and child health as its mission. School B has a humanitarian mission. In School C, the mission is to produce community physicians. School D has primary care as its mission. School E has research physicians as its mission. All of these schools could (theoretically) claim this program as a strength, depending on how it fits within the mission.

It would be clear how such a program fits within the mission of School A. For School B, providing food to children in need is a humanitarian function, thus, it fits within their mission. School C is producing community physicians and if the program teaches its students the importance of being involved in the community to benefit patients, then it is indeed a strength. For School D, if they are teaching primary care/family medicine physicians, it is important for the students to be looking toward the whole health picture of their patients, including nutrition and health. For School E, their strength must be that the program allows participants to collect and analyze data and publish their results regarding health benefits of the food provided to the children. Hence, it meets their research mission.

While the program in and of itself is a strength – and it may help in the accreditation of the school – the key is that is must be framed within the context of the mission of the school.

If it is not possible to relate a SWOT component to the mission of the institution, then it really shouldn’t matter to the institution, even if it is a wonderful program and gets lots of rave reviews. On the other hand, maybe the mission of the institution needs to be reviewed and modified – but that is a whole different kettle of fish.

A common strength cited in many SWOT analyses is that the organization has “strong leadership.” That’s great. What is the leadership to this organization? Is it just the top person? Is it the “leadership team”? What qualities make the leadership “strong”? I am actually uncertain why “strong leadership” is a strength. What happens if the leadership team breaks apart? What happens if key people leave the organization?

I recognize that many use SWOT analyses as dynamic structures and thus strengths such as these represent one of the variables that are tracked. In my experience, this happens in a minority of academic settings and thus this is not truly a construct that is useful to many of us.

Rather, I think that SWOT statements should be based on two factors, (1) actions and (2) data. While it is sometimes useful to describe attributes of specific individuals, I think that a SWOT is much more useful when it focuses on the institution and not individuals within the institution, regardless of how important that person is to the institution.

I would argue that actions – the things we or others do – are the factors which should be outlined in the SWOT. Here are some alternatives to “strong leadership.”

  • The institution is committed to having a Dean with a strong international reputation. This statement indicates that it is a commitment of the institution to have a Dean with a strong international reputation. This is an on-going process. It does not rely on the individual who is the Dean (who happens to have a strong international reputation), but there is a commitment to the continuity of that particular quality in the Dean.
  • The institution is committed to a strong, diverse faculty. Again, this is an institutional commitment. The commitment is to a strong faculty (however it is defined by the institution and those doing the SWOT) and a diverse faculty (however it is defined by the institution and those doing the SWOT).
  • The institution strongly supports mission-based programs. This statement can be interpreted as the institution supports that programs that are mission-based on a higher priority than those that are not mission-based. That is, the mission is more important than the “nice-to-haves.” Again, this is an institutional direction and not just that of an individual.

The SWOT is an analysis. To do this analysis, the appropriate questions must be asked. Is the strength a commitment and does that commitment match reality? If the commitment is a reality, then it is a true strength; if the commitment is real, but does not match reality, then it is a weakness. Similarly, if there is no commitment, but the words match reality, then it is also a weakness.

In developing the SWOT, the group needs to analyze the commitments, whether or not they match reality, and on that basis designate their strengths and weaknesses.

One almost never sees the data behind the statements in the SWOT analysis. Often, the way we generate a SWOT matrix is to sit down and verbalize what we think are the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats, but we don’t examine the data that underlie what we verbalized. This is a common error. The only way a SWOT analysis reflects reality is if data underlie each statement. The data need not be published; the data need not be public. But, the data must exist.

Let’s look at the three examples above, does the Dean have an international reputation? What is that reputation in? Does that reputation qualify him to be Dean? For example, does a reputation as an Olympic gold medalist (international reputation) necessarily qualify someone to be Dean of a medical school? Is that the level of international reputation that we are looking for?

When we look at diversity of the institution’s faculty, does it have an equitable distribution of faculty ranks (instructor, assistant professor, associate professor, professor)? Or is it heavily weighted one way or another? What does the succession planning for teaching look like? If part of the definition is research strength, what does the research strength look like? Is that a separate variable? And these are parameters that need to be reviewed along with those regarding diversity in race, sex, sexual orientation, etc.

With respect to the mission of the institution, is it focused on Leadership? Research? Teaching? What types of things does the institution do to support these programs that are part of its mission? What are the non-mission-based programs of the institution and how are they prioritized? For example, in an institution with a research mission, are there adequate resources to support faculty and student research? Are there adequate opportunities to engage in research?

It is remarkable how often the SWOT analyses do not reflect reality. I have read some analyses that make firecrackers into space rockets and muscle cars into rickshaws. Often, this distortion of reality has to do with the audience at whom the SWOT analysis is directed. Some institutions are wary of putting their reality out in the public where accreditors or competitors can access the information. Thus, some folks have chosen to deliberately withhold a complete picture for political purposes. I do not ascribe to this philosophy, but I have seen it in several organizations.

Regardless, somewhere, a truthful representation must exist. And that representation needs to be the basis of the strategic plan implemented by the organization.

Many SWOT analyses list the same thing as both strengths and weaknesses or an opportunity is also listed as a threat. I have never come across a situation where that was the true. I have seen strengths that are threatened by external circumstances and weaknesses for which there are opportunities. When looking at the internal characteristics of the organization, strengths are strengths and weaknesses are weaknesses. A strength is not a weakness. If it appears so, then there has not been sufficient analysis or characterization of the attributes to segregate strength from weakness.

Similarly, opportunities cannot be threats. Opportunities can become threats if the appropriate actions do not take place, but in and of themselves, they cannot be both. So, similar to strengths/weaknesses, it is crucial that we analyze what attributes make something an opportunity and what are the attributes that can threaten the organization.

Failure to do a proper analysis only dooms the SWOT to uselessness as a planning tool.

A SWOT analysis is probably one of the most important tools that is part of strategic planning. The reason is that a deep analysis, based on data, of the attributes of the organization gives us a realistic view of who we are, where we are, and allows us to define where we want to go.

Note: The views in this commentary are my own and not necessarily those of my institution, employer, or colleagues.

 

Vision and Mission Statements

Welcome to the New Year!

In my reflections at the end of last year, I emphasized was the importance of having strategic and tactical plans in the implementation of technology in medical education. I would suggest that such plans are useful in every aspect of education.

Over the years, I have participated in the process of developing strategic plans for a health sciences university, medical schools, departments within educational institutions, not-for-profit groups, and entrepreneurial enterprises. Some of these processes have been successes; some have been disasters. The ones that are successful have had common elements; those that failed are ones that eschewed those elements.

Much has been written about these processes and how they should be implemented. I have not read most of that literature but have been influenced most by the information on developing plans for small businesses. I am going to reflect on the experiences I have had that were most successful. Generally speaking, there are five steps in the process:

  • Developing vision and mission statements
  • Doing a SWOT analysis.
  • Developing the strategic plan.
  • Developing and implementing tactical plans.
  • Doing reviews and continuous quality improvement.

All five steps are essential elements in developing the strategic plan that is successful. In the next few reflections, I will describe these steps and what I found worked and that which failed.

Vision and Mission Statements

When I started in these processes, we always talked about mission statements but rarely talked about a vision statement. However, both are essential. They are related; but there are clear differences. Here are my definitions of the two types of statements.

Vision statement: A vision statement is a short description of the “who we are” as an organization.

Mission statement: A mission statement is a short description of “what we are” as an organization.

Thus, a vision statement defines “us” as an organization and a mission statement defines what we do.

The Vision Statement

The vision statement drives the direction of the organization. It is what we want to be and what we want to be able to do. While there are aspirational components to the statement, it is focused on the core values and purposes of the organization (1). From my perspective, this statement is a short, succinct sentence which encompasses the “who” we are the “what” we want to be. The theoretical horizon for a vision statement is forever. It should be the immutable core of what the group is and should be not only now, not only in five or ten years, but forever. Thus, developing a vision statement requires an understanding of who we are within the framework of the world around us.

If, indeed, the vision statement is an immutable core of values and goals, then to reach the understanding of that statement, everyone has to “buy in” and everyone has to participate. If this vision is not shared by all, then it will not be successful. What this means is that those who are in place developing the vision need to understand and agree, and those who join later must understand and comply.

I would argue that it is possible to develop vision statements for individual units within an organization. This is an important exercise. For example, a core value for an IT (or medical education) unit could be to “enhance the national and international reputation of the organization.” This core value implies that the unit does things to enhance reputation: new and novel implementations of technology, be leaders in outside organizations, participate in building the national and international consensus on best practices, etc. Another reasonable core value could be “enhance technology services within the institution.” (This one is tricky. It can be a core value or it can be a mission. The implications are different, as we will discuss below.) By adopting this vision, the core value is focused on internal provision of technology services.

The vision statement must be used as a guide to decision-making within the organization. Fundamentally stated, does doing “x” advance the organization toward the articulated vision? The decision is mostly binary: if yes, then it needs to be done; if no, then it doesn’t matter and should be removed from consideration. For example, if a core value is to enhance reputation of the organization, then the organization is committed to supporting its members to become leaders of national and international groups. If the core value is directed internally (for example, enhance technology services within the institution), then there is little or no commitment to supporting its members to become leaders of national and international groups.

The Mission Statement

This differs from the mission statement. The mission statement is the articulation of what we do here and now. This is how we define ourselves. There may be gaps, but this is what we do. For the most part, it sets the parameters of our daily operations.

For example, the Microsoft mission statement is “our mission is to enable people and businesses throughout the world to realize their full potential” (2). This statement is supplemented by some explanatory sentences, but it is a declaration that this is what Microsoft does. The key words in the mission statement are “enable” and “realize … full potential.” I interpret this to mean that they make it possible for their market segments (people and businesses) to achieve (realize) the goals and objectives that the market segments want to achieve. This does not limit them to hardware or software or services. What it says is that Microsoft sees as its mission the ability to provide resources to individuals and businesses to get where they want to go.

At Google, it is “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful” (3). So, Google says that their mission is to organize the world’s information (thus both digital and non-digital facts and combinations of facts) and to make it available for people to obtain (accessible) and useful (can be used by the person seeking the information). It is interesting that they use the word information as information is much more than just data or facts. Thus part of Google’s mission is to help collate and interpret data.

Both of these are excellent examples of corporate mission statements. They are short, succinct, and inspirational descriptions of what these companies do. In contrast, the Apple mission statement (“Apple designs Macs, the best personal computers in the world, along with OS X, iLife, iWork and professional software. Apple leads the digital music revolution with its iPods and iTunes online store. Apple has reinvented the mobile phone with its revolutionary iPhone and App Store, and is defining the future of mobile media and computing devices with iPad”; 4) is neither inspirational nor short. It is a catalog of what they do now (more like a sales catalog). It contrasts poorly with Steve Job’s description of the mission of Apple as “to make a contribution to the world by making tools for the mind that advance humankind.” (5)

What about examples from medical schools?

Harvard Medical School has clear mission, “to create and nurture a diverse community of the best people committed to leadership in alleviating human suffering caused by disease” (6). The key phrases at Harvard are “create and nurture,” “diverse community,” “best people,” “leadership,” and “alleviating human suffering.” The phrase “caused by disease” acknowledges the other facts causing human suffering but indicates that it is not within the realm of the medical school’s mission to alleviate those causes.

My current institution also has a well-defined and clear mission, “The Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University is a premier, research-intensive medical school dedicated to innovative biomedical investigation and to the development of ethical and compassionate physicians and scientists” (7). At Einstein, the key phrases are “premier, research-intensive,” “innovative biomedical investigation,” “development of ethical and compassionate physicians and scientists.”

In contrast to Harvard’s declaration of creating a diverse community of leaders, Einstein is focused on research. In reading the two mission statements, it would be reasonable to interpret that Harvard is primarily interested in creating leaders whereas Einstein creates ethical and compassionate physicians and scientists (who could be leaders, but are more in the trenches).

As a disclaimer (though it should be obvious), I had and have no role in writing or the official interpretation of these statements. What I have written above is just how I have read and interpreted them.

I helped develop an IT mission elsewhere that read, “the mission of the IT organization is to provide outstanding service and technical support within the organization.” This is similar to the vision statement above. But, the implications are different. In a vision statement, we make decisions based on that core value – enhanced technology services. In a mission statement, it says that we do “outstanding” (anything less is not good enough) “service” (not just technology, but service is what we provide first) and “technology support” (restricting the types of support to technology) within the organization.

It is an important exercise to develop a vision statement and a mission statement. Regardless of size or whether the group is a part of a larger organization. When developing a strategic plan, it is crucial that the team undergoes this exercise. In the process of developing (or re-affirming) a vision statement, the team identifies what they believe are the core value and core aspirations of the group. This defines how decisions should be made. The mission statement identifies what it is that we do. This defines the direction of activities of the group.

By developing or reaffirming vision and mission statements at the beginning of a strategic planning process, it helps the team come to an identity that can be used to drive the next steps. That is, once we have a vision (our core values) and mission (what we do), we need to look at our organization to see where we excel and fail at our vision and mission (SWOT analysis), what are the themes of future activities to realize our mission (strategic plan), what are the things we can do to make those themes reality (tactical plans and implementation), and how we determine if we have met our goals (review and continuous quality improvement). Those I will touch on in future reflections.

Notes:

(1) See Building Your Company’s Vision. J.C. Collins and J.I. Porras, Harvard Business Review. September 1996.
(2) http://www.microsoft.com/enable/microsoft/mission.aspx.
(3) http://www.google.com/about/company/
(4) http://www.strategicmanagementinsight.com/mission-statements/apple-mission-statement.html
(5) http://www.businessinsider.com/apples-new-mission-statement-2013-8
(6) http://hms.harvard.edu/about-hms/facts-figures
(7) http://www.einstein.yu.edu/about/

Note: The views in this commentary are my own and not necessarily those of my institution, employer, or colleagues.

(Originally published on LinkedIn Pulse on January 6, 2015 at https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/vision-mission-statements-terence-ma)

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