Confusion abounds when organizations make efforts to develop written statement outlining their corresponding strategic objectives. As is discussed in the article, “Can You Say What Your Strategy Is?” a wide range of companies all too often fall victim to ill-defined or confusing written objectives. While these statements are intended to help focus the work and underlying behavior of a company’s actions over time, difficulties arise when companies make the common mistake confusing their statement of values (or mission statement) with their strategic objective.
The authors make this observation in the article, and provide a helpful overview to describes the characteristics and distinctions between mission statements, statements of values, and strategic objectives. What distinguishes a well-defined objective statement is its ability to describe the action objectives that a company should pursue to maximize future value. Objectives are specific, measurable, and time bound. In other words, objectives must emphasize and operate according to specificity and clarity if they are to function effectively.
Often times, the differences between mission, values, and objectives are the major limiting factor that limit the impact and effectiveness in nonprofit and governmental organizations as well. Perhaps even more so, organizations operating within the public and non-profit sectors have difficulty narrowing in from their core values and mission to define actionable, measurable, specific objectives by which their work will increase overall impact and reinforce an organization’s overall mission. Similarly to private firms, organizations operating in other sectors often overlap and share common mission areas and core values. What distinguishes non-profit and government organizations from one another is the same thing that distinguishes private firms occupying the same market area: the objectives by which their mission and work is driven. Non-profits and government organizations can also have more difficulty with both seeing and acting in a way that prioritizes the time-bound nature of well-defined objectives. This is often the result of the tendency to tackle large, sweeping issue areas without defining objectives with the requisite clarity and measurability that is needed to capture demonstrable progress that is a result of an organization’s operations.
In the same way that the ultimate objective that will drive the operation of a business over future years must be clear, so too must the ultimate objective intended to drive non-profit and government work have characteristic clarity.