Friday, November 19, 2010

Vision - Strategy's Secret Sauce

Most strategic planning starts with a discussion of "What's your vision?" and that's the first place where people get stuck. Everyone gets frustrated with trying to "wordsmith" the perfect vision statement. I prefer to think of a business strategy having a "built-in" vision. I find that a vision tends to crystallize during the strategy discussion.

Why is vision important?

Strategy needs vision to give it life. Without vision you have no direction, and are stuck doing what you've always done. Without direction, you have no clarity about where you want to go and what you want your business to be.

Vision gives you focus. Without an understanding of your vision, your staff have no clarity about the organization's purpose or what they should be doing to achieve it. That's demotivating. Without a unified sense of purpose, performance suffers. There is a wastage and leakage of energy, rather than a sense of "pulling together".

Ambitious and energetic people like working in an organization that has a clear sense of direction. If the business seems to be drifting, they are likely to look elsewhere for a position where their contribution can have more impact.

I'm sure you've heard all this before.

It's very easy to say "We need a vision". So why is it so hard to have one? To have a vision, you need to be able to imagine something beyond the current reality; something you haven't seen before. It should be aspirational, rather than a statement of the current situation. A vision is not just an incremental step. Your vision might not currently be possible, but could be achievable over a given time-frame. It's important to have a unique pathway in mind.

To have a vision, you have to allow yourself to imagine something that doesn't presently exist. Author Jonathan Swift said "Vision is the art of seeing the invisible".

It's so nebulous, but so important.


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