The Need for Vision
"Where there is no vision, the people perish," says the Bible (Proverbs 29:18); in other translations, it reads that "where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint". These words hold true in business as well and remind us that not only do we need a shared vision, but that vision needs to be revealed, communicated, understood and known. It is important to have a vision for the organisation. I am not referring to just the marketing vision, the empty words you put out to tell the world that your products and services are the best, you need something to persuade your team members to remain with you. Remember that your best people can easily find work somewhere else, and it will be very expensive and difficult to replace their knowledge and experience.
What is your External Vision?
One of the first questions I ask senior management is always to explain their vision to me. In 5 or 10 years time, what will your organisation's reputation be that will attract prospects and possibilities to you rather than to your competition. It always amazes me that CEOs and MDs of significant businesses have no concept of a vision or understanding of the evolution of their market. They appear to believe that business is doing OK and that, by continuing to do the same thing, they will thrive. When I point out that someone, somewhere is about to invent something that will make their business obsolete, they don't know how to respond. Once senior management has a vision and decided that the business will have a good reputation for whatever reason, there is an effort to be made to ensure that this is a common vision, across the organisation. The vision needs to be not just communicated, but become part of the daily life and the way things are done - of course, at no time, can senior management be seen to do something that is contrary to the vision as it will immediately lose all credibility.
What is your Internal Vision?
But your commercial vision is not enough, no matter how good it is. The next question is about your vision for your staff. You want to be the preferred employer, you want the best people to come work for you, you want your most experienced and skilled people to stay with you. If you want your best staff to remain working for you, you need to understand their motivation. At this point, I recommend an independent person to identify what are the things that motivate people in your organisation, and what the things that demotivate them. You probably have "exit interviews" when someone leaves the business, but are these actually identifying the real reasons? I have heard HR managers tell me that the most common reason is that they "were offered a better deal somewhere else". This is not an acceptable answer because, unless the person concerned has an extraordinary reputation, it is very unlikely that this offer just flew in the window; they were looking for a job somewhere else, they were actively searching, interviewing and negotiating. Why? You need to find out what it is that would motivate people to stay with you. What are the things that keep them interested, challenged, faithful? If the only thing that keeps them working in your team is the money, they will probably be leaving soon. If they are interested in cutting edge technology, helping the poor, stability, working with a respected leader, whatever it may be, that is what you need to understand and decide if you can deliver.
In "My Fair Lady", the musical based on the Pygmalion story, Elisa (Audrey Hepburn) sings "words, words words, I so sick of words [...] show me!". The same is true with your vision statement. Don't just put out nice words that would look good on a motivational poster, with the picture of an eagle or a sunrise, you need to demonstrate that this vision is related to reality. For this, I create a "butterfly chart":
- In the middle of the chart is the vision statement.
- To the left of the vision statement is the list of all the impediments, the things that are stopping the vision from being the reality, the roadblocks.
- To the right of the central vision statement are the consequences and impacts of the vision. If this vision was implemented as proposed, what would be different in the organisation? How would people act, what would they see, what would change?
Once we have that list, we can start working on what to do about it. Every impediment to the left of the central vision requires a plan on how to remove it. As for many things, this might be a simple action, or it might require a detailed, budgeted and resourced plan. Every consequence to the right of the vision requires a proposal on how to implement or speed up its effects. What can be done in order to ensure that this result is achieved faster?
The Time is Now!
Now is the time to start changing things, turning your personal vision into a shared vision, changing your vision into results.
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