True North: defining your vision, mission and strategy

It is necessary to distinguish the Vision (Why) from the Mission (How) from the Strategy (What) in order to facilitate understanding, but above all to reach new heights! From aspirations to actions, turn your dreams (vision) into reality with good strategies.


One of the key elements of operational excellence is delegation to teams. In a participatory organizational model, everyone contributes to decision-making at their own level. Teams need to be familiar with the vision, mission and strategy of their organization. It is therefore important for each organization to define and share them. But before we begin, how does the vision differ from the mission? How to define it?

The true North

In operational excellence, strategic alignment is done through the Hoshin Kanri methodology. If you want to implement it, you can find more details in the article Hoshin Kanri, what is your plan?

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

As you know, true north and magnetic north are not exactly the same place. It is important to know your true north if you want to reach your destination: the closer you get to it, the more critical it is to have a precise direction that is shared by all.

In addition, the magnetic north moves, usually not very much, but in exceptional circumstances, it reverses (more information on Wikipedia). The Vision experiences the same types of changes: while it is generally defined for a long time, it can be adjusted to specify elements or follow market needs. However, in exceptional cases, it can change completely.

Vision: defining the company’s ambition

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

Here are some examples:

Organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.


Become the world’s premier digital industrial company, transforming industry with software-defined machines and solutions that are connected, responsive and predictive.

General Electric

Make cybersecurity simple and actionable for all businesses.


Your Vision can be accompanied by one or more quantified business objectives, which support your ambition. It explains why your organization exists. It is a source of inspiration for your teams.

Vision is not a marketing slogan. It is a visceral statement. The entire management committee must be convinced of this, in order to convince the rest of the teams.

Difference between Mission and Vision

The Mission explains how to achieve 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 engage your teams.

Oracle, for example, makes a very good point about the difference between its Vision (why):

We help you simplify your IT environment to free up money, time and resources to invest in innovation


and its Mission (how) :

We do this by providing you with a complete and fully integrated environment of cloud applications, platform services and production systems


With Coresilium,

We develop your understanding of cyber risks and data protection legal requirements, as well as your ability to protect your IT system and react during incidents.


Turning Vision into Strategy

From True North, several major strategies are derived. This is the step that consists of answering the question: What? In short, what are you going to do concretely to reach your Vision, through your Mission.

A good way to stay focused is to use an A3 to describe and track each strategy. An A3 is a document that gathers all the useful information on a single (large) page.

To properly 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 achieve your ambitions?
  • Current Status: Where are you today? It is always easier to know where you are starting from, to define your itinerary.
  • Target state: Your projection. Where will you be in six months or a year? What do you hope to accomplish with this strategy?
  • Action plan: this is a list of activities that you will carry out in order to succeed, and associate a person in charge and a deadline to each one.
  • Follow-up: This last section will be useful when you start working so that you can identify good moves, areas for improvement and changes made.

Decline the strategy into objectives

Now you’re in the final step: setting goals to make sure you’re moving in the right direction. It is obvious that you need to choose good indicators… To learn more about this, please read the article dedicated to building your performance indicators.