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Inspirational-Aspirational Hierarchy
There is sometimes confusion in organizations between the meaning of the various terms that are used to give a sense of purpose (both individually and collectively) within the organization. It is helpful to consider the distinction between inspiration and aspiration.
  • Inspiration (Motivation) -  This is “the process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something.” It is the fuel to keep each of the staff members motivated inside the organization.
  • Aspiration (Ambition) – This is “a hope of achieving something.” It is the journey that establishes the organization’s destination and the bounds of staffs’ ambitions within the organization.
Inspiration and aspiration apply at various levels within an organization, including:
  • The Individuals within the Organization – For example, Bill is the Maintenance Manager at Amiable Housing Society. He has personal aspirations and is inspired by certain things that motivate him personally to do a good job.
  • The Departments within the Organization – For example, Bill runs the O&M Department at Amiable Housing Society. His department is comprised of eleven people who work together to achieve a collective aspiration.
  • The Organization within a Networked Economy of Organizations – For example, Amiable Housing Society relies upon a network of suppliers, contractors and consultants to help it achieve its aspirations.
The figure (on the right) provides a conceptual illustration of the inspirational-aspirational hierarchy that is at the glue that holds together the elements of every organization.
The hierarchy from values to mission to policy to objectives and, ultimately, to plans and projects.

Included below are some definitions to clarify the relationship between each tier on the inspirational-aspirational hierarchy:
  • Values – These represent the moral principles of all the people who are a part of the organization. Human values are the foundation on which ethics is based. Values help human beings to distinguish between conduct that is right and wrong. For example, Amiable Housing Society holds that all human beings are equal and therefore employment in its organization is open to all races, genders and cultures. Values extend beyond the organization and are reflected in people’s religious beliefs, in their philosophies. All the staff of Amiable Housing Society bring their personal values to the organization. Values are the most fundamental element of the organization.
  • Vision – This is a short aspirational statement of what the organization wants to become, what it would like to achieve. It is a picture of the organization at some point in the future. It provides direction because it describes what the organization needs to be like.  It should be general enough to encompass all of the organization's interests and strategic direction. For example, Amiable Housing Society has a vision statement that includes a desire to be the best. 
  • Mission – This is a statement of the overall purpose of the organization. A reason for being. It answers the question: Why does the organization exist? For example: the purpose of Amiable Housing Society is to provide useful and functional housing facilities for the benefit of those in need in the local community.
  • Policies – This is the intentions and direction of an organization as formally expressed by its top management. A policy includes the rules of engagements. For example, Amiable Housing Society has a non-discrimination policy that governs how it will hire people into the organization. 
  • Goals/Objectives – These are the results to be achieved. They set the direction for an organization’s activities. Goals are a broader than objectives in their scope. Typically, an organization will have one or more objectives associated with each goal. For example, Amiable Housing Society has five (5) primary goals which are broken down into twelve (12) objectives. All the goals and objectives are organized into the themes of safety, quality and reliability.
  • Strategy – The general roadmap on how to achieve the objectives. It sets the framework and context for the organization. T
  • Plans – The collection of activities and resources and timelines to achieve the goals and objectives. 
  • Processes – A detailed sequence of steps with defined inputs and outputs.
  • Strategy (the Roadmap) – This is a high level map of the landscape to reveal where the organization is located now (“A”) relative to where it wants to get to (“B”).  A strategy does consider the different potential routes between “A” and “B” but is primarily focused on the destination rather than the journey.  It offers a roadmap to provide navigational context and some guidelines to consider the multiple alternative routes but no details on which specific route to use for getting to the destination -- that is where the plans and processes comes into the story. For example, Amiable Housing Society has captured its strategy in a short document that provides a “lay of the land” and the milestones that will be encountered and serve to confirm progress along the journey to the destination.
  • Plans (the Route) – This is a documented series of steps on how to move the organization from where its is now (“A”) to where it wants to be (“B”).  A plan tackles questions like how, when, where, who, and what. As such it supports the strategy by providing a way to reach (“B”) that provides an acceptable balance of risk, cost and performance. A plan allocates the resources to achieve the strategy and will therefore -- inevitably need to make some trade-offs – it will have to pick one route over another. Good plans recognize that no route is perfect and that there are always contingencies along way. A plan works out how to deal with roadblocks and traffic jams along the way from “A” to “B”.
  • Processes (the Vehicle & the Fuel) – These are the clearly defined ways of doing specific tasks. A process is much more rigid sequence than a plan. A process is typically applied to a very specific task that is well defined with little chance of contingencies or need for flexibility. Processes are the powerhouses that do all the heavy lifting. They are the fuel that moves the organization forward along the route to the destination.
  • Programs -
  • Projects – These are temporary endeavors undertaken to create a unique product, service or result as identified in one of the organizations plans. For example, Amiable Housing Society has three project planned for the current fiscal year which were identified in its capital plan. The biggest project is the replacement of the roof at a cost of $400,000. The two smaller projects are a new carpet on the 3rd floor hallway and repainting of the fences.

The Hierarchical Context
The organization's policies occupy one of the base layers of the inspirational-and-aspirational hierarchy. 

Without adequate policies the organization will encounter difficulties when developing some of the other layers of the aspirational-inspirational hierarchy.

The hierarchy of organizational purpose with policy represented as one of the layers
Fig. The hierarchy of organizational purpose with policy represented as one of the layers.

The journey to asset management maturity may sometimes feel like a maze
Fig. The journey to asset management maturity (including the development of appropriate policy) may sometimes feel like a maze.

Fig. The journey to asset management maturity (Including the development of appropriate policy) may sometimes feel like a knot that needs to be untied.

Workshops help to elicit qualitative data within the organization
Fig. Workshops are a useful method to gather the organization's knowledge resources to help develop policy.

Making inevitable trade-offs and finding consensus with different stakeholder groups
Fig. Making inevitable trade-offs and finding consensus with different stakeholder groups.

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