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An MBA graduate from a prestigious east-coast school told us recently that he “learned more about strategic planning in the past two hours than during my entire MBA curriculum.”

While humbled, we are not surprised, since most people are confused about the difference between the terms ‘mission‘ and ‘vision‘. Their confusion is intensified by some of the greatest minds of our ‘liberal’ academic world and its sometime opponent, the ‘conservative’ military-industrial complex. The confusion becomes amplified by some of the world’s largest and most influential consulting firms (the same ones that have brought us over 20 varieties of a roles and responsibilities tool; including RACI, RASI, RASCI, ARCI, etc. (see Transform Your Responsibilities Matrix into a GANTT Chart)

In fact, the argument may be dispatched quickly by avoiding use of the terms mission and vision. Rather, substitute the nature of the questions they attempt to answer, if you seek to dispel the confusion. One term represents sentiment that answers the question “Why do we show up (or, Why are we here?)?” and the other term represents sentiment that answers the question “Where are we going?” With this logic, the natural sequence is to know where we are before we discuss where we are going.

Liberal vs. Conservative

Mission or Vision — What is the Difference?

Mission or Vision?

In many textbooks, strategic planning begins with mission (ie, Why are we here?) and yields to vision (ie, Where are we going?). The military-industrial complex answers the same questions, in the same order, but defines the terms differently. Note that NATO armed forces have a vision of “liberty and independence” that explains their existence. When threatened however, they go forth on a “mission to (insert location; eg, Iraq).”

A versatile facilitator remains agnostic, not biased toward one definition over the other. They are biased however to maintain consistency within the organization and culture they are serving. Since confusion exists in most organizations, an important part of the preparation activity involves building the lexicon or glossary for your meetings and workshops that homogenizes operational definitions and ensures that they are applied consistently, within and between your meetings and workshops.


Don’t ruin your career or reputation with bad meetings. Register for a class or forward this to someone who should. Taught by world-class instructors, MG RUSH  professional facilitation curriculum focuses on practice. Each student thoroughly practices and rehearses tools, methods, and approaches throughout the week. While some call this immersion, we call it the road to building impactful facilitation skills.

Our courses also provide an excellent way to earn up to 40 SEUs from the Scrum Alliance, 40 PDUs from PMI, and 40 CDUs from IIBA, as well as 3.2 CEUs for other professions. (See individual class descriptions for details.)

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Facilitation Expert

Terrence Metz, CSM, PSPO, CSPF, is the Managing Director of MG RUSH Facilitation Training and Coaching, the acknowledged leader in structured facilitation training. His FAST Facilitation Best Practices blog features over 300 articles on facilitation skills and tools aimed at helping others lead faster, more productive meetings and workshops that yield higher quality decisions. His clients include Agilists, Scrum teams, program and project managers, senior officers, and the business analyst community among numerous private and public companies and global corporations. As an undergraduate of Northwestern University (Evanston, IL) and MBA graduate from NWU’s Kellogg School of Management, his professional experience has focused on process improvement and product development. He continually aspires to make it easier for others to succeed.

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