Vision, Mission, Objectives, Requirements, Measurement

“I have a vision, your mission is to get us there”. Project managers hear that sort of comment at least once in their career.

So what is a Mission? Who has Visions? How to these relate to the things we need to work with: objectives and requirements. Vision and mission are related and they must be coherent in content. However, but they are different in character. In system terms, one is a description of a state, the other is the motivated activities to reach that state.

Vision is a picture of the future state.

Mission is the movement towards that state.

With so many management gurus talking about different ways of defining the two, why am I sure that it is that way round?  Well, you see a vision and there is a quote, “your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to …”? That’s about activity because only a verb can follow that: so mission is about activity.

In cultures where it is the leader’s job to have the vision,  share it and discuss it with the team. The team’s questions and knowledge can refine the vision. Building a vision together from step 1 may work more effectively for other cultures and organisations.

The understanding of the vision as a team is vital to the success of the mission – if you can’t understand what it looks like when complete, you can’t define the mission and know when you have achieved it. Having a compelling vision can motivate the team because they are engaged in it and have helped refine it. The vision can give indicators for completeness because it is the future state you are working towards. If you make those things measurable, you can test for completion.

The mission can be expressed as activities each with an objective. Ideally one objective will bring the mission into sharper focus and remove distractions from the team. Sometimes that isn’t possible but certainly objectives expressed with clarity are easier to deliver.

Time to think about those measures again. How does the objective contribute to meeting that measure? If it doesn’t have you got the right objective and how can you justify doing something that takes you further away from your vision in one or more of the aspects you found important enough to measure? Or did you not define measures that truly reflect what the vision needs you to achieve?

So how do you arrive at requirements? The vision, mission and objectives only make sense if they satisfy stakeholders. Requirements are retailed technical descriptions of those needs and how meeting them can be measured. The vision, mission and objectives will only be valid if that context means the requirements can be met.

With the requirements, you can validate a vision and mission: given our stakeholders’ requirements are we looking at an appropriate vision of the future? Do the requirements mean we are looking in the wrong direction? Similarly, to validate the set of requirements, it would be sensible to ask if there are parts of the vision, mission and objectives for which the requirements are insufficient or plain wrong.


Portfolio Ambition

It’s February and six weeks into the year I’ve listened to project portfolio managers wrestling with their organisations’ daydream-like expectations of the project portfolio. When the board signed off the portfolio with a list of change initiatives and project objectives in January, they had not made a proper evaluation of the resources available to complete the work or the risks involved.
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What are we trying to achieve?

Setting the objective for a programme or project is something that some managers and organisations give too little analysis. The instinct is to say “make me widget X” or “make this new organisation structure happen”.  That simply defines the solution that seems obvious at the time. For some projects that is enough but for many that is like saying “go to Plymouth” without say why or what you need to be ready to do when you get there.

For a project team to be successful, it helps to know what the end state needs to be and why you need that end. Read more of this post

Time for SMART OIL

I’m lucky enough to be able to do some pro bono work with some very special organisations. I learn from them as much as I am able to contribute.  That alone is why people should volunteer! This example shows that a volunteer project manager as a “sounding board” can shape a project for a better chance of success. Read more of this post