Do you know where you’re going?
Recently I helped a client talk about the vision thing.
Actually, they didn’t talk, they worked on it. Hard. [I’d like to believe this was due to their excellent facilitator but they were ideal clients: engaged, intelligent and committed.] The point is, the vision thing can add value. Honest conversation about vision can be a compelling tool for years.
So how to have an effective discussion?
- Many of us have been involved in vision discussions squeezed in amongst other items: annual strategy sessions, budget planning, organization reviews, etc. This makes it hard to focus on the higher level work. Fighting to keep your share of the annual budget precludes thinking about vision per se. To create an effective vision you’ve got to set the environment which often means getting away from the office, turning off cell phones and resisting the temptation to shortchange the discussion to get on to something else. If you want people to truly develop vision, you’ve got to honor the process.
- Having the right people in the room is essential: the B team isn’t going to develop your vision. Leadership needs to drive this, and until the leadership team itself makes that choice you’re better off not doing this halfway. HR (or Marketing) can’t compel you to “create” a vision. Effective leaders do this when the need for bedrock clarity outweighs the time cost of developing same. Having the right people in the room also means [their] organizations are thus committed de facto. Until leadership is engaged to drive this on their own it won’t happen. When the student is ready, the teacher appears.
- Vision is stretch. By definition a future state – you can choose the approximate timeframe – it should create tension between where you are and where you want to be. It is simple, it is direct. Yesterday’s vision was three words: for that group it was all that was needed. Vision is the essence, the core of what your organization represents to others. Why you exist. Let it be lofty, let it be stretch, and let it be. For vision to make a difference in the day to day actions of people, it has got to be compelling. It is stretch.
No doubt you’ve encountered the ugly cousin of vision, bad mission. Often fabricated by committee the corporate mission statement says so much it ends up saying nothing. Vision isn’t mission.
Vision separates, winnows down and funnels excess out. Often just a handful of words the power is in the interpretation people give the vision not in the excess of language.
Vision won’t solve all your corporate ills in and of itself: but the lack of a sound compelling vision will surely keep your firm stuck in the average column.
Until subsumed by another firm that really worked the vision thing.