What is the difference between a strategic objective and a mission statement?

There is a bit of a blurry line between mission statements and strategic objectives. Often clues to the strategic objectives are contained within a mission statement. Here are some notable vision/mission statements from history.

Example: A grim mission statement

General Motors: ‘GM is a multinational corporation engaged in socially responsible operations, worldwide. It is dedicated to provide products and services of such quality that our customers will receive superior value while our employees and business partners will share our success and our stockholders will receive a sustained superior return on their investment.’

Example: Three good mission statements

  1. Innocent: ‘Make natural, delicious food and drink that helps people live well and die old’.
  2. National Multiple Sclerosis Society: ‘A World Free of MS.’
  3. Microsoft: ‘A computer on every desk and in every home.’

I like these because they are short, clearly carefully-considered, distinctive and you can see how a set of unique, and measurable, KPIs could spring up to support the statement.

Example: A funny mission statement

Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Company Mission Statement: ‘We will build great ships. At a profit if we can. At a loss if we must. But we will build great ships.

Do-confirm checklist

Checklist: Are your strategic objectives clear?

  1. Is each strategic objective articulated in no more than two sentences?
  2. Does the description of the strategic objective make sense?
  3. Is it possible to interpret a statement in a radically different way? (Best test this by getting a number of different people to read and explain back what a given statement means - there can be very surprising variations.)
  4. Are there any ‘woolly words’ or ‘management buzzwords’ in the strategic objective? Examples of words that don’t help include ‘synergy’, ‘excellence’, ‘outstanding’ and ‘empowerment’ - they sound great but are very hard to pin down. If there are, then these need to be removed or replaced with clear, simple phrases.

If your strategy is not available in this form then you will need to have a session with the leaders in your organisation to make sure that you can distil the strategy into something suitable.

Here are some examples of clear strategic objectives:

  • Increase bank capital ratio to 11%.
  • Reduce loss of life through road accidents by 50%.
  • Become the biggest UK supplier of rubber ducks.
  • Be the fastest-delivering mail order memory stick retailer.
  • Have the widest selection of digital delivery channels in Europe.

You need your strategic objectives in this very specific form to support the next steps in the ROKS process.

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