11 steps to developing a crystal clear vision

Tuesday, January 20th, 2015

What do we mean by ‘vision’?

Simply, ‘a clear picture of what you want to achieve, where you want to be, and by when’.

So, vision is all about your ‘desired future state’. It’s often confused with ‘mission’, however mission is about where you are today – your purpose, why you exist, and where you are now.

In other words, your mission is what you do best everyday whereas your vision is what the future looks like because you do that mission so exceedingly well.

So, for example:

  • Everyday Google does: “organize the world‚Äòs information and make it universally accessible and useful” (mission).
  • And if Google does exceedingly well, it will at some future point: “develop a perfect search engine” (vision).

Having a clear picture of where you want to be and where you are now allows you to create the right plans to achieve your vision. Managing change effectively allows you to identify necessary adaptions to your plans to ensure you stay on track and get where you want to be.

People often think that vision is a soft and fluffy thing that has little impact on performance, however there is overriding evidence that demonstrates having a clear picture of where you want to be and when, can significantly increase your chances of success. If you don’t know where you’re going how can you make informed business decisions or evaluate opportunities? How can you expect people to get on board and commit to the actions needed for a change of direction if they don’t know what the future looks like? As the Chesire Cat said to Alice – “If you don’t know where you’re going, any route will take you there”.

Having a clear vision will;

  • Motivate and engage your employees because everyone is clear about what they are doing and why. (We‚Äôll be covering this in future blogs‚Ķbut as an aside engaged employees have been shown in some studies to be up to 18% more productive – how would that benefit your business?)
  • Provide absolute clarity in evaluating decisions and actions ‚Äì it provides the tight focus on thinking strategically to manage based on where you want to go, rather than where you are.
  • Create confidence – being forward looking is a key quality that people look for and admire in a

Having a clear vision doesn‚Äôt just apply to your overall business goal however – One of the first steps in leading successful change is to create a clear picture of what you‚Äôre trying to achieve, where you‚Äôre trying to get to and by when. It‚Äôs about clearly describing a highly desirable end state – to quote Stephen Covey, we need to ‚Äúbegin with the end in mind‚Äù. Doing this forces you to identify EXACTLY what you are aiming for and focuses all efforts on achieving that (there’s a tremendous difference between ‚Äòkind of knowing what you want‚Äô and knowing exactly what you want).

Knowing exactly where you want to be via a clear and simple vision allows you to agree and inspire the right actions with a large number of people. It ensures you and your teams are doing the right things, right, right now to get you where you want to be.

So how do you create a powerful vision for change?

  1. Be clear about what needs to change, and why – you must be able to explain this simply and quickly, and use it to create a clear vision that people understand and are interested in.
  2. Agree the size and ‘scope’ of the change.
    • is it for the organisation as a whole or a particular part? Is it a small or a large wide-ranging impact?
  3. Choose your time frame.
    • There‚Äôs no one right answer – it depends on the sector and the imperative for the change, but you need to be clear.
    • If it‚Äôs an organisation-wide change in direction your vision time frame should be enough to get beyond problems of today but not so far out that you have no connection with getting there. Most people have trouble looking beyond three years. However, if your company‚Äôs vision can be attained too quickly, it will also become irrelevant quickly too.
  4. Get out and talk to your clients and suppliers.
    • A great vision comes from direct feedback from the people who make the marketplace ‚Äì find out what your clients really want.
  5. Compile a list of great positive achievements.
    • What could be assets to achieving your vision? This creates a positive basis from which you can build future success.
  6. Think about what success would be like.
    • What will the business be doing, how will they be doing it, with whom and where?
    • What will people be saying about your company? Imagine a business magazine writing an article about your future business ‚Äì what would the headlines be saying? Then get something down ‚Äì put all the wild out there thoughts down ‚Äì put aside all the reasons why not and write as if it has already happened ‚Äì build all the passions and energy from the team in it ‚Äì create a vision that you are all part of. Put it aside and leave a few days before coming back to it.
    • Ask for feedback from people you trust and respect and who have relevant experience. Does it sound inspiring, does it get you excited?
  7. Summarise for clarity and impact
    • Condense your thoughts and research into a short, powerful, inspiring statement that creates an immediate mental image in people‚Äôs minds.
    • Your vision should be:
      1. Concise
      2. Ambitious
      3. Clear and visible
      4. Emotional
      5. Powerful
      6. Interesting
    • Aim to describe it in a simple way ‚Äì a surprising simple image can express more ideas than a 1000 words.
  8. Create a dialogue.
    • Using all existing communication channels (as long as they are easy, accessible and usable) to share it with everyone who will be involved in making it happen.
    • Be clear that this is the WHAT – the How you‚Äôre going to get there will come next. Usually rumours are much worse than anything that is actually going on ‚Äì to build trust in a time of change we need predictability and capability ‚Äì people want to know what to expect.
    • Organise early conversations between different parts of the organisation. This is a critical task and can result in the most productive outcomes. It also takes time for people to hear, understand and believe a message ‚Äì keep communicating until you know that they have heard it, believe it, know what it means and interpreted if for themselves.
    • Ensure that you allow for and crucially respond to feedback.
  9. Create a sense of urgency.
    • Use the current position whether based on financial performance, competitive situation, market position, technological trends, market share or other relevant indicators ‚Äì the communication goal is to convince that BAU is totally unacceptable and more dangerous than launching into the unknown.
  10. Make sure the leaders immediately start to live the vision or no-one else will.
    • People follow what we do, not what we say and ensure that managers recognise it‚Äôs their responsibility to communicate too.
  11. Ensure congruence of messages, activities, policies and behaviours.
    • The message, the measures the behaviours and rewards must all match the vision. A picture of the destination and a clear purpose are not enough. A clear vision explains what you‚Äôre trying to achieve, but it does not give any guidelines for how that is to be accomplished. Clearly stating and living your values fuels the passion that keeps you focused in the face of obstacles, adversity, and change. Values tap into people‚Äôs feelings and evoke standards people care deeply about and they describe how we intend to operate, on a day-by-day basis, as we pursue our vision.

Once you have a clear simple vision that everyone understands and can ‚Äòbuy into‚Äô, you can start to plan the actions that will get you and your business where you want to be…

Next month’s installment – how to start translating the vision into reality

For information on how to deal with change like a ninja, contact us, or follow us on twitter @_changeninja