True North : define your vision, mission and strategy


One of the key elements of Hoshin Kanri is the definition of vision. Even without deploying the Hoshin Kanri, it is important for each organization and each entity of it to define its vision. How does the vision differ from the mission? How to define it? My goal in this article is to bring you some answers.

The True North

In Hoshin Kanri, ho means compass, so we sometimes find the term True North for Vision. The translation is interesting and provides two details:

As you know, geographic North and magnetic North are not exactly in the same place. It is important to know your true North if you want to go to your destination: the closer you get to it, the more critical it is to have a precise and shared direction.

In addition, the magnetic North moves, in general rather little, but in exceptional circumstances, it can reverse (more information on Wikipedia). The Vision undergoes the same types of changes: if, in general, it is defined for a long time, it can adjust itself to specify elements or to follow the needs of the market. It can, however, exceptionally, change completely.

Define the company ambition

Your Vision should be summed up in one sentence, which explains the values and direction you want to give your organization.

Here are some examples :

  • Google: Organize information globally to make it accessible and useful to everyone.
  • Coca Cola: To refresh the world… To inspire moments of optimism and happiness… To create value and make a difference.
  • General Electric: usher in the next industrial era and to “build, move, power, and cure the world.

Your Vision can come with one or more encrypted business goals that support your ambition. It  explains why your organization exists.

Difference between Mission and Vision

The Mission explains how to reach your Vision. For more details, on why and how, I invite you to watch Simon Sinek’s video on the subject. If the Vision is ambitious, the Mission is more pragmatic: it expresses how the organization will deliver its Vision.

You often know your Mission better than your Vision. But the question Why is much more important to guide your choices and involve your employees.

The vision is not a marketing slogan. It is a visceral affirmation. The entire management committee must be convinced, to convince managers and employees.

Oracle, for example, marks very well the difference between his Vision (why): We help you simplify your IT environment so that you can free up money, time, and resources to invest in innovation and its Mission (how): We do this by providing a comprehensive and fully integrated stack of cloud applications, platform services, and engineered systems.

Turn the Vision into strategies

From the True North arise several major strategies. This is the step of answering the question: What? In short, what will you do concretely to achieve your Vision, through your Mission.

A good way to keep the focus is to use an A3 to describe and follow each strategy. An A3 is a document that collects all useful information on one (large) page.

To define your strategies, here is what this type of document should contain:

  • Reason for action: the link between Vision and Mission. Why is this a way to reach your ambitions?
  • Current state: Where are you today? It’s always easier to know where you’re going from, to define your itinerary.
  • Target state: your projection. Where will you be in six months or a year? What do you want to accomplish with this strategy?
  • Action Plan: List the activities you will do to succeed, and associate a leader and a time to each.
  • Follow-up: This last section will be useful when you start working to identify good moves, areas for improvement and changes made.

à retenir

It is important to distinguish the Vision (Why) from the Mission (How) and the Strategy (What) to facilitate understanding, but especially to reach new heights!

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