It Starts With Vision!

I find that many owners, CEO’s and organization leaders struggle with “planning” for their organization because they have not resolved what the VISION is for their business. They have a vision in mind but they may not have shared it with their leadership team in a convincing way.  Their intent may have been to share a vision but many of their listeners probably considered what they said to be an opinion, which is subject to change unpredictably from time-to-time, and not a vision that can lead a company to future market leading position.

I recently asked an organization leader, who admitted that their planning process was undeveloped, what the vision was for the group.  After a rambling discussion a vision emerged.  I asked if this was written down somewhere and the answer was no.  I asked if the leadership team shared a vision and the answer was “possibly?” The leader admitted that planning and visioning was not his strong suit.  I explained that is was not necessary for him to actually do it but to see that it was done.  The person to lead the visioning process could be a member of the leadership team or an outside consultant serving as a moderator leading the group to a vision consensus.

Another client was convinced they did not need a vision statement.  When I asked what their story was to major accounts as to why they should invest in their product line the answer was to explain their technological capability.  This left the customer with the responsibility of translating technological capability into strategic value.

It was too long before this company realized the capability story was not giving them the market traction they expected and they committed to a vision statement process.  They went from an initial full page vision -> three paragraphs -> three sentences and finally -> a single sentence.  That vision has now served them for four years and resulted in strategies that renovated their product line, developed new business relationships and partners and last year represented 40% of their business.

Vision sets the stage for identifying the necessary strategies to achieve the vision.  If you do not have a compelling vision that the leadership team is committed to how effective will the strategies be to achieve the vision?  How do you create the vision statement for an organization and why does it need to be so compelling?

Creating the Vision Statement

A vision statement should define the desired or intended future value of the business.  This is different from Mission, which should define the purpose of the organization and why it exists and what it does to achieve its vision.

Here are some steps that are useful to create a vision statement.

  1. Put it in writing.
  2. Ask your leadership team to put in writing what they believe the vision is or should be for the organization.
  3. Put all of the responses on a white board and see where the commonalities are and where differences exist.
  4. Evaluate each vision element to assess its value in moving the organization forward to a stronger value proposition.
  5. Exclude elements that restate where the company is today and those elements that represent extreme views.
  6. Create an environment where everyone can weigh in – where the senior guy (or anyone else) does not dominate or bias the discussion (the main value in using an outside moderator).
  7. Construct a trial vision statement that includes the value elements.
  8. Word smith it down to one sentence if possible.
  9. Does this resonate with the leadership team as the future direction for the business?
  10. 10. Try it out on each other, with your closest associates and bring your feedback to the group and polish the statement further.
  11. 11. Present it to key customers and measure their reaction – positive, neutral or negative – and polish the vision statement further.
  12. 12. Commit to the final version and communicate it to your employees, partners, customers and market.
  13. 13. Revisit it at regular intervals (beginning of each planning cycle) to see if it is still valid or has something occurred that will allow you to improve it further.

The vision statement drives your strategic planning process where you will align human and physical resources, commit financial investment and market focus to grow your business.

A Compelling Vision Statement

The vision statement should be the reason the owner, CEO and leadership team members jump out of bed every morning. It should be something that ever member of the organization can identify with.  The vision statement is the foundation of your elevator pitch.  Customers will use your vision statement to determine if your future direction will complement and leverage their value and strategic direction.

A compelling and well-defined vision statement is core to your business success.

It starts with vision!

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