When speaking to others and reading about companies and their future, I often see confusion of how strategy, as a concept, is perceived and how it relates to vision, mission, goal, tactics and operations.
To make it clear:
Vision is how a business envisions a future world in which it exists, taking into consideration the market, industry, technology, customers, utilization, etc. A Vision tends to describe what the world will look like in the future. Exactly how far away that future is, is up to the company, but a general principle is that the time should not be too far away as many times too far away tends to make the Vision utopian, hard to grasp or difficult to relate to everyday business. If we look at Apple, their vision is: “to make the best products on earth, and to leave the world better than we found it.”
A Mission is what a business sets out to accomplish and do, and fits within the business's defined Vision. If we look at Apple again, their mission is: “to bring the best personal computing products and support to students, educators, designers, scientists, engineers, businesspersons and consumers in over 140 countries around the world.”
A Goal fits in the overall Vision and Mission of a business and should be clear, defined (preferably measurable or quantified in one way or another). A Goal can be something that a business strives to achieve within a certain and defined time-period, but which in the context of this article, often tends to be not less than one year.
A Strategy is your chosen long-term and systematic approach or method to achieve your goal(s). A Strategy can i.e. be growth through mergers and acquisitions, or organic growth, or entering into new countries, or introducing and building your business on a technology platform, etc.
A Tactic is the doing and implementation of your Strategy and relates to how you have set up your organization, the tools you have selected to use, etc.
Operations are the daily grind and work to make your Tactics work and come alive.
Worth noting is that the time-frame and scope of the Goals, Strategy, Tactics and Operations also depends on the perspective and role of a person. As an example, an HR director might have a goal to recruit a certain number of specialists for their company, and to achieve that goal, the HR director is likely to develop a recruitment Strategy that could involve hiring more HR-staff or contracting more HR-consultants. This strategy would then trickle down to the defining of the relevant Tactics and ultimately Operations, the daily work needed to be done to achieve the Goal.