Does your organization lack vision? If so, it may be time to quit.
Updated: Nov 28, 2018
A Wall Street Journal headline caught my eye this morning: “GM Closings a Fresh Sign of Worry for Economy.”
Two thoughts immediately crossed my mind:
1. Another journalist trying to draw readers with fear as bait
2. Dead wrong
The big domestic automakers are in many ways operating under the same philosophy which tanked Sears and is scuttling GE: they felt immune to digital disruption, their products went stale, and their customers fired them.
If you look at the discontinued vehicles at GM (and recall the shuttering of the HUMMER, Pontiac, Saturn, and Oldsmobile brands) and the cars dropped by Ford, you will find yourself buried in a sea of junk.
Did the economy kill these vehicles? No.
The lack of brand strategy, inspired product, and market saturation killed them.
In short, each example suffers from a lack of vision.
Many well-established organizations fall into the trap of thinking they are too big to fail. That customers will remain loyal if for no reason other than they are adverse to change. Much like our friend at The Wall Street Journal, leaders of faltering organizations are quick to blame outside variables, such as the economy, and continue to stay the course. Maybe they are blinded by executive incentive packages, or perhaps they rely too much on long-term planning. Regardless of the reason, these organizations lack vision, and the emerging market is eating them alive.
In reading this post, if you are challenged in identifying the vision of your organization, it may be time to jump ship. If you are in a position to do something about your team’s lack of a vision, here are ten methods for developing and communicating a well-crafted vision.
6 TIPS FOR CRAFTING AN IMPACTFUL VISION
1 - TARGET YOUR AUDIENCE
When crafting a vision, the author must understand the difference between corporate vision (the one on your website) and the strategic vision that is shared with your team. The strategic vision described what leadership's vision for the future looks like and provides some big ideas on how the team will get there.
A good example is “Farm of the Future” by John Deere. Their vision includes nearly all aspects of the organization’s portfolio and describes how the various operating groups should interact seamlessly to both delight the customer, and maximize revenue opportunity.
The strategic vision is intended to be approved by the boss of the author (board of directors, or other,) and consumed by the people who will be responsible for its execution.
How do you want to talk to them?
What do you need to say to maximize transparency and build excitement?
2 - ENGAGE EMOTION
Consider your customer. How will your vision impact their lives? Does the impact, and the way you are presenting it, communicate a transcendent purpose. As noted by Dan Pink in his book “Drive,” purpose, along with autonomy and mastery, are the integral elements in motivating a team.
3 - CREATE A GOAL
After presenting the organization's strategic mission, there should be zero question about where the organization is headed. In reciprocal, the vision should encompass all work that the team is going to be asked to do, including maintenance and compliance.
How will we accomplish our objective while still placing priority on the less sexy aspects of the organization?
What does success look like?
4 - PICK YOUR TIMEFRAME
Just as the best goals are time-bound, your vision should also include a target horizon. For example, in the mid-2010s many organizations recognized the need to leverage digital platforms to deliver their products and services better Many branded the initiatives Digital2020, with 2020 as the goal to complete the effort.
5 - MAKE IT CLEAR
Remember how in any Writing-101 class that it was easy to push an assignment until the last minute, ramble to the word-count requirement, and still land a “B?” Often in these situations the goal was to generate a lot of well structured paragraphs and to follow a story arc, not sell a position.
Remember how hard it was in graduate school to sell your idea on the front-side of a double-spaced piece of paper when you were asked to sell a perspective that you don’t agree with on a complex topic?
Critical thinking is hard, but the resulting clarity is priceless.
Your vision should be a lot like that grad school paper: clear, concise, and free of buzzwords.
6 - REMEMBER: ITS AN EVENT, NOT A PROCESS
People remember moments, not the entire experience. As such, the presentation of the vision should be as exciting and rememberable a moment as launch. It should be impactful, it should be exciting, and it should reflect the vision.
4 TIPS FOR COMMUNICATING VISION
1 - TELL A STORY: A STORY OF SELF, US, & NOW
All good stories follow some semblance of a story arc.
They begin with a hook, a story of how we have arrived where we are. Many successful pitch-people do this by drawing a parallel from the presenter’s life. Not only does this build the story, but it creates a sense of vulnerability that the audience can relate to.
The story reaches its climax, regarding a vision, when the presenter talks about how the collective “us” will change the market to make the life of the customer better. The presenter will not speak concerning what he or she will do, but how the whole will achieve the mission together.
The story resolves with a “now” moment — a description of how the “us” will begin embarking on this mission journey immediately following the presentation.
2 - RESTATE THE VISION CONSISTENTLY
Communicating a vision is not a one-time event. The initial communication needs to be reinforced almost immediately and at every opportunity. Supporting material can include talking points and communication guides for other leaders, engaging influencers, and creating bold information radiators.
3 - CREATE WE MOMENTS
To create an engaged workforce, team members need to feel connected to the vision. Individuals need to understand how their contributions are helping the organization achieve its broader goals. “We” moments are opportunities to help people feel both included in victory and dissolve feelings of isolation when things get difficult.
“We hit the milestone! Great teamwork everyone, way to come together – one step closer to Digital2020!”
“The platform migration is proving to be a challenge, and the data breach was certainly unexpected. Let’s all work together to understand where the system failed so that we can share the lessons we learn with the rest of the organization. If what we learn can help others, this incident can be a risk mitigator for all of Digital2020!”
4 - CELEBRATE BROADLY
Even for organizations who expertly craft a strategic vision, directly communicating is not enough. We must remember to keep the vision as a driving force for all that we do for as long as it remains relevant. Communicate the pivots, be consistent with the language, and do not forget to celebrate victory along the way!