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Understanding the difference between the terms Vision, Goals, Objectives, Tasks – is key for planning and eventually for fulfilling the Vision.

Vision

The first step in setting goals and priorities is to personally develop what the organization should look like at some point in the future  a vision. A junior leader, such as a supervisor or line manager, will mainly be concerned with a department, section, or small group of people. While senior leaders set the vision for the entire organization. However, both types of visions need to support the organization’s goals.

The mission of the organization is crucial in determining your vision. Your vision needs to coincide with the big picture. The term “vision” suggests a mental picture of what the future organization will look like. The concept also implies a later time horizon. This time horizon tends to be mid to long term in nature, focusing normally on 2  to 7 years in the future for visions affecting the entire organization. However, leaders such as supervisors or line managers tend to have shorter time horizon visions, normally 6 months to a year.

The concept of a vision has become a popular term within academic, government, defense, and corporate circles. This has spawned many different definitions of vision. But, the vision you want should be a picture of where you want your department to be at a future date. For example, try to picture what your department would look like if it was perfect, or what the most efficient way to produce your product would look like, or perhaps if your budget was reduced by 10 percent, how you could still achieve the same quality product.

Once you have your vision, it needs to be framed in general, unmeasurable terms and communicated to your team. Your team then develops the ends (objectives), ways (concepts), and means (resources) to achieve the vision.

Goals

The second step involves establishing goals, with the active participation of the team. Goals are also stated in unmeasurable terms, but they are more focused. For example, “The organization must reduce transportation costs.” This establishes the framework of the your vision.

Objectives

Definable objectives provide a way of measuring the movement towards vision achievement. This is the real strategy of turning visions into reality. It is the crossover mechanism between your forecast of the future and the envisioned, desired future. Objectives are stated in precise, measurable terms such as “By the end of the next quarter, the shipping department will use one parcel service for shipping items under 100 pounds and one motor carrier for shipping items over a hundred pounds.” The aim is to get general ownership by the entire team.

Tasks

The fourth step is to determine tasks. Tasks are the means for accomplishing objectives. Tasks are concrete, measurable events that must occur. An example might be, “The transportation coordinator will obtain detailed shipping rates from at least 10 motor carriers.”

Timelines

This step establishes a priority for the tasks. Since time is precious and many tasks must be accomplished before another can begin, establishing priorities helps your team to determine the order in which the tasks must be accomplished and by what date. For example, “The shipping rates will be obtained by May 9.”

Followup

The final step is to followup, measure, and check to see if the team is doing what is required. This kind of leader involvement validates that the stated priorities are worthy of action. For the leader it demonstrates her commitment to see the matter through to a successful conclusion. Also, note that validating does not mean to micro-manage. Micro-management places no trust in others, where as followingup determines if the things that need to get done are in fact getting done.

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