Strategic Planning

Simplifying the Language of Strategic Planning

If you have participated in more than one strategic planning session, you’ve probably noticed that the language used in strategic planning is varied and confusing. One person’s ‘Goal’ is another’s ‘Priority’. Discussions prevail over whether to call it a ‘Strategy’ or an ‘Objective’ and ‘Mission’ is often confused with ‘Vision’.

In the countless hours we spend helping to implement strategic and operational plans we are often asked to clarify terminology. Here’s a simple list of common nomenclatures used that will help you simplify your strategic planning and implementation process.

Operational plans

While a strategic plan defines your organization’s overall direction, an operational plan defines the day-to-day activities of your organization over a specified (often annual) timeframe that enable the implementation of the strategies. Strong links between the operational plan and strategic plan are necessary to enable your organization to operate effectively.

Planning architecture

This is the structure that defines your strategic plan and how the plan cascades down to operating actions. A simple plan may consist of Vision, Mission, Values, Goals, Strategies and Actions.


A Vision is a long term, forward thinking and inspirational statement that describes the desired achievement or future state of your organization.


A Mission statement (sometimes referred to as a purpose statement) defines the “Why” an organization exists today. It answers the “what the organization does”, “how it does it” and “who it does it for”.


Values describes the desired or existing culture of the organization. They are the guiding principles that drives the behavior of the organization.


Goals are broad statements of what your organization hopes to achieve. They’re often qualitative in nature and represent the key achievement outcomes that will help the organization achieve their Vision.


A Strategy is a broad method or approach to achieving a Goal. They are the big things that the organization needs to do to achieve their Goals. They define a general approach or method but not specific actions or projects.


Sometimes referred to as “Tactic”, “Task” or “Activity”, this is where the rubber meets the road. They are the concrete actions or deliverables that can be assigned to staff members or teams with specific timelines. Action represents what needs to be done to successfully implement a Strategy.

Key performance indicators (KPIs)

The Key Performance Indicator (KPI), sometimes referred to as Performance Measures or Performance Metrics, is a quantitative progressive measure that demonstrates how effectively an organization is achieving its key business objectives.

The planning cascade

Regardless of the terminology you choose for your strategic and operating plans, keep in mind that your plan should cascade from one level to the next and interrelate. That is, Goals are consistent with the achievement of the Mission and Vision. Strategies are consistent with the achievement of the Goals and Actions relate to the achievement of the Strategy.

Cascading strategies focuses the organization and creates line-of-sight between the work that people do and high level desired results. This is an alignment exercise that is critical to becoming a strategy-focused organization and is the key to successful strategy implementation. If you’re looking to optimize your organization’s strategic planning, be sure to book a free demo with one of Envisio’s experts and see how our cloud-based software will help to elevate your performance.

Cara Ong

Cara has over 15 years of experience in business and product management. She is a highly organized, results-driven, strategic executive and entrepreneur with a positive attitude towards work and life.

Cara is passionate about helping organizations find effective solutions and providing forward-thinking strategies to help them achieve their goals of operational efficiency.

In her free time, Cara enjoys acrylic painting and golf.

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