Over the past few years I have been honoured to develop Vision Statements and Culture Documents for several of our clients. As a company’s vision is paramount in the development and growth of its brand, it has become apparent to me that, despite how much is written about Vision, few companies understand it or make it part of their culture. Many companies may have a Vision Statement but it is often relegated to a plaque on the wall or a page on the company website.
A lot of companies think they have a vision but when their employees are asked they shrug their shoulders or, at best, paraphrase what they think their immediate supervisor would want to hear. The challenge with most Senior Management Teams (SMTs) is that they may have had a vision when they were starting to build the company but, caught up in so doing, have failed to infuse the company with that vision. Or they have chopped and changed so much along the way that they have completely lost sight of the vision and are now just reacting to their marketplace day-to-day.
As the president of one of our client companies told me; “We know what we want the company to become and where we want to go, we just have a horrible time trying to articulate it to our people and our market! Sounds all too familiar these days, doesn’t it?
Many leaders ponder the true value of a vision statement as they fear that a lot of time will be spent creating one but little time will be spent executing it. This leads me to express the following;
Five Benefits of Vision:
- Guiding Star
- Faster Decisions
- Efficient Route
- Rowing Together
- Save Time and Money
When the wise men were searching for that glorious stable over 2000 years ago, they knew how to negotiate their way through the wilderness – a steady focus on that Guiding Star. The same applies to the Value of Vision. By setting a vision that is SMART based (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-Driven) and Passion based, you can achieve great results that bring life to any company and team.
When faced with challenging decisions or a critical “fork in the road”, business leaders to front line workers can quickly and easily evaluate opportunities and verify decisions based on the vision set forth by the company collectively. This allows them to free up their thinking and move forward faster.
Vision provides the right primary decision making tool to make direction for a company more efficient by eliminating a lot of extraneous thinking and departmental bias. When developed as a team; Vision promotes buy-in and that, in turn, ensures a more efficient path to reaching mutual objectives.
As I mentioned, it is important that the Vision be developed as a team. It can be prompted and steered by management but ultimately it has to include (or at least be given the opportunity to include) the input of everyone in the organization. Ultimately management should make the final call based on big picture thinking and a 3-5 year strategic plan but the goal needs to reflect and respect the view of all those who will ultimately see it through on the ground floor.
Save Time and Money
It may seem like the standard sales pitch but when you add it all up, having a Vision really does result in saved time and money. Or as the examples I’ve stated demonstrate, time is money so time saved is money earned. A company can reach its goals faster, more efficiently and with less strife and guesswork.
To build vision and eliminate interference is articulately phrased by renowned author Alan Fine in his book You Already Know How to be Good. Fine breaks down the approach to building a corporate culture as
Faith, Fire and Focus that drive the quality of performance and performance improvement.
It is what creates results in organizations where people:
- genuinely believe in the viability, competency and purpose of the organization;
- are enthused about and engaged in their work;
- know what to pay attention to and are focused on the key objectives that would make the organization successful; and
- are able to fully execute on the Knowledge they already have.
When Faith, Fire and Focus are released, extraordinary things happen. This is when possibility opens up.
What Makes a Good Vision Statement?
In his recent ground breaking book Stop Selling Vanilla Ice Cream, author and consultant Steve Van Remortel provides a convincing explanation of the attributes of a winning Vision Statement:
A compelling and clear vision has subjective and objective components. The subjective components include how you want your internal culture to be described by your employees and what you want your customers to be saying about you when you achieve your vision. The objective components include the market and scope of the products and services offered in the vision time frame, and the strategic measurements and financial objectives.
To develop a powerful vision, you will need everyone to agree on all aspects of the vision, including what new products, markets and geographic territories you’re going to pursue within the vision time frame.
There is no doubt that the benefits of developing a profound and captivating Vision Statement for your company or organization far outweigh the challenges you may face in the development of one and undoubtedly exceed the potential wandering in the desert your leadership may face without this clear and concise direction. So where do you begin?
There are many books and guides on the topic of Vision development. I believe it can be kept relatively simple. For example; have your SMT consider the following questions:
a) Where did we come from? (How did we get to where we are today? What have we learned? What have we done well or not so well?)
b) Who are we? (What do we stand for, believe in, want to deliver, and how do we plan to be differentiate ourselves?)
c) What do we want to accomplish? (What type of clients do we want to have, services to provide, delivery and follow-up to give them? Or conversely, what do we NOT want to do and to be…?)
d) How do we get there? (What will we need in terms of people, process, and procedure to reach what we defined in c)?
With this perspective in mind, your team can build a series of draft Vision Statements that can be reviewed by groups comprised of members from each department to provide a well-rounded response. This will result in your team having two or three versions which the company can either vote on or agree to merge certain aspects of to have a compilation that equates to the final version and buy-in from all.
In my next blog I will lead us through some thoughts emerging from the next step beyond the vision… Corporate Culture and its effect on the growth of your business.
Vision is Leadership
To close, let me leave you with this quote from John C. Maxwell’s The 5 Levels of Leadership in which he is describing the 5th and ultimate level a leader can obtain. It struck me that the best leaders bring a true vision to any company and as such, this depiction applies equally to the vision a great leader will deliver.
With gratitude and humility, they should lift up as many leaders as they can, tackle as many great challenges as possible and extend their influence to make a positive difference beyond their own organization and industry.
That’s vision in a nutshell.