Why is it that most vision statements become pictures on a wall with little or no meaning? Why do leaders find it so difficult to enrol their people in the organisation’s vision despite ‘communicating’ it to all on an ongoing basis? Above all, why do some organisations spend millions of dollars on creating a vision that nobody (other than the leadership coalition) are invested in?
The answer to these questions is that although leaders intuitively understand the potential power of unity of purpose, they generally do not know how to engage their people. I can say this having worked with senior executives across more than 50 industries globally over the last 30 years.
Why bother with visions anyway?
The potential power of a vision can best be described by relating the story of a documentary that I saw on ‘Beyond 2000’ several years ago. This had a profound impact upon me when I thought about the documentary as an analogy of the power of having every person focused on and committed to achieving the vision.
The story was as follows. A gentleman had an inoperable tumour in his brain. Through the use of computer technology, the doctors pin pointed the precise position in the brain. They built a helmet on which 250 nozzles were located through which laser light would be passed. The nozzles were positioned such that each nozzle converged upon the tumour. Each laser was, in and of itself, too weak to cause any tissue damage to the brain. But the collective force of 250 nozzles instantly destroyed the tumour and the man walked out of hospital fully cured, without a scratch and without any painful post-recovery. Imagine the power you could generate if all the energy of all your people in your organisation was focused on ultimately making the vision a reality!
We are expecting too much from our people!
Think about trying to build a 3000 piece puzzle without the aid of the picture. I guess you could build the border pretty easily because of the shape of the outside pieces. But once the border is complete, how difficult is it to construct the rest of the puzzle? This is effectively what we are asking our people to do – contribute to the organisation without really knowing where the business is headed and how we intend getting there. It is our responsibility as leaders to provide a simple, clear and unambiguous vision – a picture of what we want the organisation to ultimately become.
Checklist for an effective vision
Respond the following questions, all of which must be answered in the affirmative. If any one question is negative, revisit and refine your vision.
- Does it articulate a real pupose of the organisation?
- Does it describe the benefit of and value added by the organisation’s activities?
- Does it articulate what is unique about the organisation?
- Are the words unambiguous so that they mean the same to everyone?
- Is it succinct so that it can be easily comprehended?
- Does it define the boundaries and limits to the organisation’s activities?
- Is it likely to be reasonably stable over time?
- Does it use precise, action-oriented words so that people can see or imagine the end result?
- Does it have real commitment from the very top of the organisation?
- Has it been communicated to everyone in the organisation – in person not once but on an ongoing basis?
- Is it shared by everyone in the organisation – are people committed to it?
How to enrol our people and harness the power of your vision
The first 9 questions in the checklist deal with the ‘hardware’ – that is the rational side of a vision. This is where leaders generally focus their time and effort.
The last three questions deal with the ‘software’ – the emotional content of the vision. The secret to harnessing the power of your vision lies in engaging people using their emotions. The vision should inspire them to get out of bed in the morning. Unless you can get your people to want to be part of something bigger – become sold out to the cause, you are wasting your time.
Learn how to craft a meaningful vision statement and learn how to cascade it effectively down to the lowest levels of your company by getting the Strategy Module of the Strategic Fit Program