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Helpful Definitions and Examples

Goals, Strategies, and Initiatives

The terms “goal,” “strategy,” and “initiative” are often used to describe the three levels of a strategic plan.

Goals are broad targets (occasionally we refer to them as “overarching goals”). They are big, often general, outcomes an organization is striving to achieve. Typically, there aren’t more than five or six of these in a strategic plan.

Strategies are what the organization is going to do to achieve its goals – the “hows.”

Initiatives are the more specific activities the organization will undertake to put in place its strategy. Like strategies, they speak to “how,” though at a finer level of detail.

See examples of goals, strategies, and initiatives from other institutions.

Mission, Vision, and Values

Mission describes the unit’s purpose—why it exists, who it serves, and what its desired outcomes are.

Vision is a “Big Idea”: An overarching aspiration for the unit and a description of what it will be three to five years hence—what success will look like when the unit achieves the goals of its strategic plan.

Values characterize the ethos of the unit, the principles that govern official and unofficial actions and behavior.