M.O.S.T. analysis explained

M.O.S.T. stands for Missions, Objectives, Strategies and Tactics. In business, M.O.S.T. analysis is used to analyse the internal environment and, ideally, to change internal culture and processes for the better.

It is an extremely powerful tool, often used to give businesses and other organisations a fresh sense of purpose and capability. M.O.S.T. analysis is how you start to tie lofty ambitions and idealistic visions to achievable goals and a successful business.

What Is M.O.S.T. analysis?

M.O.S.T. analysis is a highly-structured method for providing targets to team members at every level of an organisation. Working from the top down, it ensures that you retain focus on the goals which matter most to your organisation.

As a system, it breaks down the communication barriers between different levels on the same team by asking at every stage “How does this help us reach our next level of targets?” In this way, every tactic employed has to be justified in terms of reaching strategies, which in turn must contribute to objectives, which must, finally, contribute to your mission.

For example, the tactic of decreasing the number of stock checks a sales assistant has to carry out contributes to the strategy of increasing the number of sales assistants on the shop floor at any one time. This strategy helps the company to reach its objective of helping customers in the shop as soon as a problem arises, which contributes to the mission, selling more products.

The analysis can be applied to many areas of a business, from its most obvious applications in sales, marketing and business growth to internal processes and human resources.

More About M.O.S.T.

Mission

Every organisation is different, and we can make no assumptions about what its mission might be without asking the right questions. Profitability, for instance, is explicitly not the mission of a non-profit organisation.

Even with for-profit organisations, you cannot assume that profit as an end goal. Under Jeff Bezos, Amazon has focused on razor-thin margins with as little profit as possible in exchange for huge amounts of market share.

A good mission is ambitious and essential to broader business success. It could even be the entire reason for the organisation’s existence. Once it has been established, the rest of the M.O.S.T. analysis can begin.

Missions should be reviewed when they have succeeded or found to be flawed.

Objectives

Each objective should be a contributing condition for the mission’s success. This means that an objective achieved will make the mission target easier to reach, but they might not be essential to reach your mission.

Objectives should be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely (S.M.A.R.T.), otherwise goal-creep will set in and objectives will become fuzzy and difficult to implement.

A good objective sets a clear target to achieve within a tight time-frame. Ideally, it will complement your other objectives to compound successes across the M.O.S.T. analysis.
Objectives should be reviewed if they are found not to help the mission.

Strategies

Strategies are the options open to achieve objectives. These may be quite complex, involving many tactics, and they may overlap to an extent. Strategies are an implementation detail.

Strategies offer a way to quickly review and group the tactics implemented on the ground floor, so they make sense as methods to achieve your objectives.

If strategies do not accurately describe the tactics being used, or do not work directly towards your objectives, you should review them.

Tactics

Tactics are the methods you will use to carry out your strategies. They should be simple and relatively discrete processes that can easily be understood and carried out even by people who don’t have a high-level overview of the M.O.S.T. analysis.

A good tactic is small and S.M.A.R.T. With effective tactics, your strategies will quickly lead to completed objectives.

If your tactics are inefficient and complex in practice, or there are unexpected obstacles to implementing them successfully, they should be reviewed.

Case Study

Morning Star, a food manufacturing company, were able to institute a ‘manager-free’ hierarchy, in which no-one has a boss, and all responsibilities and compensation are negotiable.

They’re not a small company, with revenue at over $700 million per year and more than 400 employees.

How has it achieved this?

By implementing a form of M.O.S.T. analysis as a systemic requirement of any job with them, Morning Star have effectively enabled employees to ‘self-manage’. The mission replaces the boss figure, objectives strategies and tactics are implemented by each employee for themselves, and success or failure is judged in part by discussion with fellow employees.

Clearly, this is not a model which would work for every business. However, what Morning Star does well as a company is highlight the power of letting the mission dictate the actions, as a mission offers unity of purpose, understandable goals, a real sense of success, and a unique selling point for the business as a whole.

 

M.O.S.T. For Business

Businesses fall into many traps by attempting to tackle business strategy internally, these are just a few:

  • Getting distracted from moving the business forward by day-to-day actions or demands from customers, suppliers and competitors
  • Failing to clarify where it wants to get to and in what timescale
  • Omitting to get Board and management agreement to the mission
  • Failing to clarify the key objectives that need to be reached (and in what timescale) for the mission to be successful
  • Ignoring external and objective assistance in analysing the strategic options available to satisfy the key objectives
  • Missing out the strategy stage altogether by going straight from objectives to tactics, which leads to a lot of “dead ends”
  • Not ensuring that everything done at tactical level helps to ensure success of the strategies
  • Failing to properly define timescales, responsibilities, monitoring and control procedures to ensure that implementation moves forward at the necessary speed

External Strategic Planning helps companies avoid these traps and keeps the business moving forward with a sense of urgency and in a clear direction, with a cohesive system that “hangs together” from Director to shop floor level.