Clarifying the Vision

by Eric Wann

Many organizations talk about the importance of vision. It is understood at a cognitive level, but not done well at a practical level. Many organizations, especially smaller ones, have a vision for the future, but it is typically locked up in the heads of the top leaders in that organization. In some cases, I have found that only the top leader is clear on the vision. 

It is vitally important that each person in your organization has a good understanding of where you are headed. It is important for the individual to help provide meaning and a sense of purpose for their work. It is also important for the organization because each individual is continually making decisions based upon their perception of the direction and the strategic priorities of the organization. When a person does not understand the direction the organization is headed, they either provide their best guess or stop and do nothing.  

Clarifying the direction that the organization is headed paves the path for both the individual and the organization. An effective vision must contain the following three characteristics if it is to be used to help align and focus an organization: 

* Clear Message - Your vision must be clear in its message and succinct in its presentation. The vision must be a key factor in allowing your employees to understand where you are headed and what day-to-day decisions will help get you there. 

* Compelling - Your vision must be compelling! It must make people want to get to this future state you are describing. There are only two real reasons people change their behavior. Either their current situation is so bad that they just can't stand it any more and will do whatever is necessary to remove themselves from this horrible state, or the future state is so compelling that they decide the pain of change is worth it to reach the desired end. 

* Communicated - This third characteristic may seem obvious, but remember most organizations keep their vision bottled up in the heads of their leadership. Why is this true? One reason is because of the fear of failure. If they never tell anyone where they are headed, they are not accountable for the results. Another reason is that it is relatively easy to point in the future direction, but it is time consuming and sometimes downright painful to develop and then articulate what the future will be like. Make certain your vision is simple and easily communicated. Remember, you do not want your employees to have to refer to a sheet of paper to remind them of the vision. 

Vision is the starting point for strategy. If you do not know where you are headed, you can not build an effective strategy to get you there. Take the time and effort to develop a clear and compelling vision and then communicate it effectively. You will be amazed at how your workforce will respond!