“Tones sound, and roar and storm about me until I have set them down in notes.” You might be wondering what this quote from Ludwig van Beethoven has to do with community development. What I hear in the musical master’s words is the process of creating order from chaos; he is crafting incredible harmony from a storm of strong, independent, unconnected notes. To me, that’s an analogy for good planning – strategic planning.
In fact, developing and implementing a good strategic plan can help an organization take control of the chaos and set itself on a path of identifying and achieving its goals. In addition to goals, most successful plans have a few common elements, including a vision and a mission.
Why does an organization need both a mission and a vision? Aren’t they really the same thing? Well, no, they’re not – and they’re both an important part of successful planning and work.
A mission is a concise statement that explains why the organization exists, answering some basic questions: What do we do? Who do we serve? How does that improve things? Tapping into the passion of the employees, volunteers, and partners, a mission statement reflects why this organization and its work is important. Much like the North Star, a mission statement is always visible, allowing the people of the organization to continually realign themselves to remain on the right path. A mission statement expresses the work that the organization is doing today.
A vision is less about doing and more about dreaming. Vision statements outline the desired future, as expressed by the organization. Possibilities, hopes, innovations – these are the lifeblood of vision statements. A vision should be aspirational and reflect a world that is possible (by the good and successful work of the organization) in the future.
Here’s another way to consider mission and vision statements. Think of a missionary. The work of a missionary is immediate, on the ground, working directly with people and communities to improve their situations. The missionary knows his/her purpose and is directing energy into achieving that objective. Conversely, a visionary is someone who focuses on the future –envisioning what could be. While a visionary is aware of the current situation, he/she is contemplating the best-case possibilities that may exist in the future.
Does your organization have some chaos it would like to tame? OSU Extension has skilled facilitators to help your team create a strategic plan that has its feet firmly in the present and its eyes focused on a hopeful future. For more information, visit go.osu.edu/seekexcellence.
Becky Nesbitt is an Assistant Professor and Extension Educator in Community Development with OSU Extension.