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Mission vs. Goals vs. Objectives vs. Strategy vs. Executions vs. Tactics

At a recent internal agency meeting, there was a lot of discussion/confusion about terminology that we use in our business every day…. specifically the differences in definition of mission, goals, objectives, strategy, execution and tactics.

Some of these terms are interchangeable. Some definitely are not. Some reflect the difference between WHAT and HOW. And some are similar, but are different because of scale/size.

Here’s how I see it:


A mission is a very big, long-term end-result or achievement. There may be objectives, goals, strategies, executions and tactics all used to achieve the mission, but the mission is the biggest and most important thing to be accomplished.

Mission statements are usually the non-financial achievement that a CEO either develops for his company or is hired to achieve. The mission is a what versus a how, and is very similar to a vision statement in that it has a future orientation.


I think that objectives and goals are interchangeable. They are the ends toward which effort and action are directed or coordinated. Although it is the aim or an end, it is not necessarily the final achievement.  That’s the mission.

Objectives and goals are also whats, not hows, but they are smaller than a mission. There can be a number of objectives and goals to be achieved in order to achieve a mission, but there is usually only one mission.


Strategy is how to achieve an objective, goal (or even a mission). It is a thoughtfully constructed plan or method or action that will be employed to achieve the result.

We often talk about people who are good strategists. These are people who excel at devising schemes and plans and courses of action to achieve the desired result.

As you advance in the ranks of account management you move from being more of a “doer” (execution, tactics) to being more of a “thinker” (developing strategies to achieve objectives and solve problems).


Executions are what is done to deliver on or coordinate a strategy. They are definitely a what, not a how.

In our vernacular, they are the print ads, TV commercials and direct mail pieces, web sites, etc. that are developed from the creative brief/strategy statement.

Although execution is more about doing than thinking, it is still critical, as poor execution will prevent us from delivering on the strategy that will achieve our objective.


Tactics are devices or actions taken to achieve a larger purpose. They are also a what, not a how, but they are on a smaller scale than an execution.

When we say that someone is a good tactician, we mean he is good at making the smaller moves, gestures and acts that achieve a strategy. Many people often confuse tactics with strategy and also confuse tactics with execution, but there are differences, even if they are subtle.

Here’s an attempt at an example to demonstrate the use of these terms.

Mission - To make the XYZ company largest seller of premium candy

Objectives/Goals - Achieve share of market leadership in the premium candy segment.

      - Be known as the most expensive candy, but worth it.

Strategy - Convince consumers that XYZ candy is the best premium candy by associating with high-end people and entities.

Execution - TV and Print ads using wealthy celebrity endorsers.

Tactics - Sample XYZ candy in high-end department stores
             - Put XYZ candy on the pillows of beds in high-end hotels


I hope this clarifies things. That was my objective.



Bruce Kelley

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