Vision and Goals vs. Strategy Map and Objectives

“But if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought.”

― George Orwell, 1984

 A goal and an objective are interchangeable terms, even some dictionaries define a goal as an objective, but strictly speaking they mean different things. On BSC Designer we talk a lot about strategic things, including goals and objectives, so let’s have a clear understanding of the difference and why it is important. It’s good to have your team speaking in the same business language. Moreover, business owners and executives that understand the difference will be able to come up with more balanced ideas about where their business wants to go and how it will get there.

What’s the difference between a goal and an objective? 

A goal is a general direction where a company or an individual wants to go; a goal is broad, intangible, and abstract. A top level goal for the company is a vision. In the contrast, an objective is specific, tangible, and measurable item. A company might have several important goals and many more objectives.

What's the difference between a goal and an objective?

Example

Your goal might be: Learn the Balanced Scorecard method. 

  • This goal is intangible as it is not really clear what “learning” and “Balanced Scorecard” in this case mean. Does it involve reading books, passing courses, learning best practices, taking part in the real BSC project or something else?

Your objectives might be:

  • Name all the steps of the Balanced Scorecard according to “Strategy Maps” book by Norton and Kaplan
  • Pass a BSC Designer software proficiency training with 80% score result.

These objectives are specific, tangible and measurable.

Why is the difference important?

It is obvious that any executive needs to have both goals and objectives in his or her toolbox.

  • Without goals all the business will be about having long to-do lists with no focus on the big picture;
  • Without objectives an organization will have a good wish list with no action plan.

They say that goals are great motivational tool. The trust is that different people are motivated in a different way. For example a vivid Amazon’s vision “to be Earth’s most customer-centric company for four primary customer sets” might be really inspiring for marketing people, but some technical person might say “Great! And how do we know that we are there? How are we supposed to do that?”

I would say that for some type of persons clearly defined objectives motivate even more than a company’s goals. Both goals and objectives need to be defined not only for motivation purpose, but for building a clear picture of where a company wants to go, how it will get there and how it can know if it is on the right track.

Finding a mission statement that will motivate your team

Before doing anything else, I’d recommend starting with a mission statement. If you think that finding a good mission statement is hard, try the approach described in this article. Instead of reinventing the wheel we asked those who were already working on the project if they ever mentioned the project to others, and if yes, what words did they use to describe it. These two simple questions were enough to understand what actually motivated people to participate and why this project was special for them.

Mission can and should change

Hopefully your company grows not only from the viewpoint of financial performance, but also from the viewpoint of leadership maturity. It implies the need to update your mission as well, as something that inspired your team in the beginning might not inspire it today. A good example is how the brand promise of Zappos changed over the years. Company’s CEO Tony Hsieh talks about that in his book[1]:

  • 1999 – Largest Selection of Shoes
  • 2003 – Customer Service
  • 2007 – Personal Emotional Connection
  • 2009 – Delivering Happiness

Could Zappos or any other company start with such a brand promise like “delivering happiness”? I don’t think so…

  • In 1999 Zappos needed something more tangible (like “provide largest selection of shoes”) that was a good function-oriented mission.

Zappos implemented a focus on the client in their business DNA and by 2009 “Delivering Happiness” was the best explication of their brand promise or mission.

Goals and objectives in the business

Talking only about goals and objectives a company won’t change a situation. Let’s see the way that one needs to go from a vision statement to get end results.

Vision, goals, objectives, strategy map, KPIs. The way that one needs to go from a vision statement to get end results.

  1. We start with a company’s vision. A vision is a top-level goal of the company. Technically this statement is correct, that’s what numerous books on management define it as, but in the real life it is hard to find any meaningful vision statement. Check out some thoughts by Bernard Marr on the topic.
  2. Next, we are moving on to goals. Here is no need to squeeze all the ideas about the future of the company into one vision statement; hopefully the company has a solid list (or map) here.
  3. The question, “How these goals supposed to be achieved?” is answered in company’s strategy.
  4. The strategy is built from specific objectives – steps that a company needs to follow. To focus on a strategy, a company puts objectives on a strategy map and, if we follow the Balanced Scorecard method, it links them with each other with cause-and-effect connections.
  5. As we discussed above, objectives are measurable, so any objective can and should be aligned with a KPI that will tell to what extent an objective is achieved.
  6. Objectives tell us about the result that should be achieved, but they don’t tell us how exactly this result will be achieved. We need a tactical tool on this stage; let’s call it an action plan, it might be a general one or a detailed to-do list.
  7. Once an action plan is executed an end result is achieved, and management can revise a situation as needed and set new goals and objectives.

I was writing about a similar topic in “The big picture about Balanced Scorecard.” Check it out to see how the ideas from this article apply to the Balanced Scorecard concept.

Premium Balanced Scorecard TrainingA properly defined “Mission” and “Vision” will actually help you to build a better business scorecard. Check out an online training called “Building Balanced Scorecard Step by Step” where under our guidance and following our examples you can build a prototype of your own balanced scorecard. Check out the training schedule and details.

Cultural context might be different

Another reason why the explanation above is important is that in some languages there is no adequate translation of words “goal” and “objective.” For example, in Russian there is just one word for both “goal” and “objective:”

The difference between two ideas needs to be explained and cannot be simply translated. The next time you will be sharing your strategic goals and objectives with your team, make sure that you have explained the difference between these two terms first.

“Business Goals” tab in BSC Designer

Here are a few words for users of our BSC Designer software. In BSC Designer we have a tab called “Business Goals.” Obviously, it should be renamed to something like “Business Goals and Objectives.” We did not do this because we simply don’t want to take up all the free space by using long names for tabs. Using “Business Objectives” is not an option either, first the word “Objectives” is longer than “Goals,” and the main reason is that it will confuse users again this is tab where one can add both goals and objectives.

Steps 1-6 as described in the paragraph “Goals and objectives in the business” can be automated in BSC Designer. On the “Business Goals” tab one can map business goals and objectives, align them with KPIs and action plans and represent them on the strategy map. Here how it works.

Conclusion

Terms “Goal” and “Objective” are different. It is important to know and use the difference to talk in the same business language, to motivate your people better and to come up with a more logical strategic plan. Goals are the building blocks for a strategy, check out A Long List of Goals vs. a Strategy article to learn more about how to use goals properly.

What do you think? How do you use these two terms? Probably you can share your favorite example of a good goal or objective.

References

  1. ^ Delivering Happiness. A path to profits, passion, and purpose, Tony Hsieh, Business Plus, 2010. Book’s website.

Related Articles

Strategy and KPIs Scorecard Expert | Speaker | CEO. Aleksey Savkin (LinkedIn, @bscdesigner) is helping companies to better formulate their strategies and make the process of strategy execution more tangible with KPIs. His areas of expertise are Balanced Scorecard, Key Performance Indicators, business performance management. Aleksey is a frequent speaker at conferences; the author of a number of articles and books on Balanced Scorecard. New book by Aleksey: 10 Step KPI System

Posted in Executive’s
  • http://www.bscdesigner.com/ Aleksey Savkin

    Is there is problem ornsome sort of misunderstanding exists? Yes! Try to do a search overnthe LinkedIn website where people write something like: “My main goal/objective,”n”My primary goal/objective.”

What is BSC Designer?

BSC Designer is a balanced scorecard software available as a cloud-based service and Windows desktop application.

Getting Started with BSC Designer

Try BSC Designer for free

Download BSC Designer

Who uses BSC Designer

According to our users, BSC Designer is easy to install, configure and it helps a lot with Balanced Scorecard, strategy maps, and KPIs.

BSC Designer Customers

Training for the software

To make it easier for the users to get started, we have a lot of free training materials for the software.

Video manuals for BSC Designer

Customer support

Should you have any questions, we are at your disposal.

Pricing and buying

How much does BSC Designer cost? It depends on the configuration that you prefer. Use this price calculator to find out the total cost, get an official quote, and buy the software.

What Balanced Scorecard is all about?

Fast Track explains complex ideas in a simple way Check out Strategy Scorecard Fast Track to find easy explanation of the most important complex ideas.
  • What is a Balanced/Strategy Scorecard?
  • How to build a good strategy map?
  • How to find winning KPIs?
  • How to cascade strategy?
  • How to implement scorecard
Learn all the nuances quickly and ask follow-up questions to BSC expert. Learn more...

What are your current challenges?

We help our users to get started with Balanced Scorecard, strategy maps, and KPIs. Here is a list of frequently asked questions and respective answers to them.

Q: What is the Balanced Scorecard?

Big picture about Balanced Scorecard A: Check out: Get the big picture about Balanced Scorecard article.

Q: I'm looking for a KPIs... how do I find good ones for our business?

How to find a KPI for... A: Check out our recommendations.

Q: Do you have some examples of the Balanced Scorecard?

Examples of Balanced ScorecardA: Sure, we have some here.

Q: Balanced Scorecard is about strategy execution, right? But what is a strategy?

Define strategy, create strategy mapA: Check these articles about strategy definition and creating strategy map.

Q: How do we cascade our top level scorecard throughout the company?

How to cascade a strategy mapA: Do it by business goals, some examples will also be useful.

More questions and answers...

BSC Lessons

Download BSC Designer and we will follow up with you with lessons about the Balanced Scorecard:

BSC Designer experts

Aleksey Savkin Performance Management and Balanced Scorecard

Kazim Ladimeji HR KPIs and Performance Expert

Levi Newman Effective KPIs and social metrics

Oana Boteanu Performance Management

Oleg Tumarkin Business Measurements

Upcoming events and talks

We organize, sponsor, and participate in various events related to the strategy execution.

  • "Building Balanced Scorecard Step by Step." 15th July, 2017, online training. Read more...

BSC Designer Roadshow in Athens, Greece, June 9-15, 2017. - Firsthand experience with BSC Designer software Drop us a note if you want to meet up at these events.

Online training: Build BSC step by step

The best way to get started with the Balanced Scorecard is to join our online training.

Balanced Scorecard Training Online Strategy map, KPIs, cascading - it might be hard to put it all together. In the online training "Building BSC Step by Step" we explain all the nuances in simple words and help companies to build a prototype of their balanced scorecards.

Find us on Google Plus

Thank you for sharing!

Whether you are looking for a professional Balanced Scorecard software, or just researching information about Balanced Scorecard and business strategies, we recommend you to download and try our BSC Designer software (no credit card is required).

We will follow up with you with lessons about the Balanced Scorecard and will keep you informed about the trending articles on bscdesigner.com

Follow us in Social Media

Send this to friend

More in Executive’s
Strategy Planning and Management Frameworks in BSC Designer

The original article about various BSC alternatives and BSC-based models was written back in 2010. If you look inside the toolkit of executive,...

Sustainability Balanced Scorecard

The Balanced Scorecard concept is a good starting point for other business methods that focus on specific aspects of business...

Close