Many organisations have a vision. “A vision without actions is a dream and actions without vision is a nightmare.” or “A man without a vision perishes.” are common statements in management books and seminars. Over the last 25 years, I have worked and watched executives go into paralysis when trying to describe their vision and values. At strategic planning workshops, I have seen middle level managers with the bored ‘here we go again’ look when told they are going to revisit the vision!
If your company is a vision devotee then here are some tips to help get it right:
Use Consistent, Clear Terminology: Purpose/Mission and Vision are different. The word mission often confuses people. Mission sometimes means the objectives the army goes on to achieve a goal or what a church organisation does to convert people. ‘Purpose’, a much easier term to understand, is the reason why an organisation exists and is often defined as the ‘business we are in’. Vision, on the other hand, is what the organisation is striving to become, look and feel like in the future.
Strategic Objectives Are Different From Visions: John Kennedy’s “We will put a man on the moon before the end of the decade” was a goal, not a vision. The vision was for America to again become the leader in space. Landing on the moon was a way to demonstrate the vision was achieved.
Some company’s vision is to double their revenue in 5 years. These are goals not a vision. A vision is the why behind the goal. Why do we want to double our revenue?... To be a sustainable company returning value to shareholders, staff and community. That’s closer to a vision!
Vision Is More Than Returning Profit To Owners: That is not a vision, it is a bank statement! Why do employees want to get up and work every day to make 0.00000000001 cent for their owners? Having an organisation’s vision be ‘to make a profit’ is like saying the purpose of life is to breathe. We need to breathe to live but we live to have an enjoyable, fulfilling life. It is fine to have profit as a goal, but profit is the beginning not the end of the vision!
Making Visions Real For The Truck Driver: A lot of visions wind up in strategic plans or on posters but not in the hearts and minds of staff. A vision has to be translated to front line staff so that it influences their actions. Staff friendly words, including relevant skills in performance appraisals, staff signing their names on vision statements and acknowledging staff who contribute to the accomplishment of the vision, are effective ways to translate visions to staff.
Visions Are More Than Vague Wishes: “Our vision is to be the best-lead organisation in the world through our commitment to total customer satisfaction delivered by our totally empowered employees to continuously improve our position of unequaled quality and lowest costs, and in so doing, produce superior returns for our shareholders” Many visions are so broad and meaningless that everyone reading them says; ‘Yeah, whatever’. Ensure your vision is relevant to your organisation, is inspiring, challenging and can be achieved!
Strategic Objectives And Visions Must Be Aligned: Companies have objectives. The achievement of the strategic objectives should result in the accomplishment of the vision. I am amazed that many companies have objectives that are unrelated to their vision. Somehow their left brain came up with the vision and their right brains came up with objectives, but no one asked if they led to the same result. Have a look at your strategic objectives and see if they fulfil your vision.
Values Drive Vision And Objectives: Finally, a lot of companies have lovely values such as integrity, teamwork, customer service, creativity, continuous improvement and business acumen but the values don’t relate to the vision and objectives of the company. IBM had great values; product excellence and integrity, but it didn’t include innovation, while Apple was fanatically encouraging values of creativity and innovation. Values should relate to your company objectives and its core beliefs and vision.
Many organisations have great sounding visions but they need to look at them more clearly to see how they can be translated into an inspiring reality.
Dr Ron Cacioppe is the Managing Director of Integral Development, one of Perth’s most unique and experienced leadership and management consultancies. Ron is also Adjunct Professor at Curtin’s Australian Sustainable Development Institute.
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