21 05 2010

Read Part One here.

Yesterday I discussed the company Mission Statement, today I take off from where I left off with a closer look at The Vision.

One of the world’s leading strategists, Jacques Horovitz, phrases it superbly:

The vision is what enables us to define the future, to work towards a specific objective.

The vision should be specific where the mission statement need not be. The vision looks forward into the future, the mission is what we are about now but might also limit the vision if we allow it to constrain us too much.

Your vision is your dream for your company, not a wishy-washy dream but a dream based on sound research which will provide an inspirational signpost to great things to come. Vitally and often overlooked, the vision should also provide the focus, the drive behind your strategy. It takes your dreams and makes them tangible while, importantly also giving them a deadline. If the strategy is the ‘how’ then the vision is the ‘what’.

Your vision is your dream with a deadline which will then provide focus for developing and delivering your company strategy to that deadline. It should be challenging but not impossible. It should be inspirational not only to you but to the staff who will be managing and delivering the strategy on the company’s behalf.

In the 1980s GE came up with the vision; “become number one or number two in every market we serve and revolutionise this company to have the strengths of a big company combined with the leanness and agility of a small company.

But by when? I can just imagine hearing the child’s voice from the back seat as they make their journey, “are we there yet?” as the company works towards an undefined deadline.

And what of; “number one or number two”? Does that sound as wishy-washy to you as it does to me? Doesn’t that allow a little space for settling for second best if first hasn’t happened? Does it sound like a dream to you? Does it inspire you?

Let’s transfer this vision to that of a talented athlete whose dream is to, one day, compete in the Olympic Games. Without defining which Olympic Games (the deadline) there will always be tomorrow thus removing any urgency or need to create impetus. And then one day the athlete will wake up and time and age has caught up with him and the Olympic Games becomes a dream unfulfilled.

That same athlete might have targeted a specific Olympic Games but then gone wishy-washy on us by targeting becoming number one or number two in the world. It sounds great but when seeking a driver for high performance it is too unspecific. Athletes improve every generation; seemingly impossible feats become historical achievements. Think four minute mile and you get the picture; once it would make you number one now it would make you number, erm….. you get the picture?

The athlete needs to work out a target performance that is likely to produce a gold medal performance and work to that. Becoming number one is non-specific; running sub 3.45 (which only three men in history have done) for the mile by 2016 is.

Ah,” I hear you say, “but running that time will not guarantee the gold. The athlete cannot control what other athletes are doing.” And you’d be right. But neither can we control our business competitors all we can do is aim for the likely requirement to be where we dream of being. Saying “being number one or number two” without time frame is vague. Saying “I will run under 3.45 for the mile by 2016” is both specific and measurable, not to mention far more motivational and easy for the athlete and the team around the athlete to picture and plan to (i.e. the strategy).

I admit, it is harder to get the vision right than it is to simply have a good sounding vision which no one will question. And you are not alone in thinking that. Here are some visions from large multi-national corporations which fell into the trap described above.

In 1987 Microsoft’s stated vision was “a PC on every desk.

Wow! No lack of ambition there. But by when? How many PCs does that mean? 23 years on, are we there yet?

In the 1970s Honda’s stated vision was “we will destroy Yamaha.

30+ years on; are we there yet?

The ‘vision thing’ as George Bush senior so ably reminded us can be a challenge to get right and confusing to understand but when it is done right it can be inspirational, motivational and an unbeatable driver in successful strategic planning.

The vision has been described as ‘a dream with a deadline,’ in fact that’s what I called it above. In reality it is slightly more than that. It is a dream, made specific, with a deadline.

What does a great vision look like?

This nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to earth.

That was President John F Kennedy (a president who did get the vision thing) addressing Congress on 25th May 1961. A nation was inspired and, come 1970 and the new decade, no one was asking; “are we there yet?

Now, go and dream!

© Jim Cowan, Cowan Global Limited 2010



One response

6 11 2014

[…] Read part two here © This guest blog was written by Jim Cowan, Cowan Global Limited […]

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