A vision statement is a compelling description of how “a day in the life of the customer” is improved by enjoying the benefits of your products and services. It describes a future reality you want to drive your organization to. Vision statements can be stories, pictures, or imaginative videos.
Purpose, Vision, Mission, and Value Proposition statements all serve different purposes and all help focus an organization.
This is like painting a picture with your words. It brings a company’s mission to life, with words that carry a clear and forceful image that motivates all employees.
Every manager has the capacity to be visionary. There is nothing mystical or super-human about it. A true visionary is someone who recognizes a need or opportunity and, regardless of conventional wisdom and skeptics, does something about. Vision isn’t forecasting the future; it is creating the future by taking action in the present.
Visualization can be helpful but it is not required. Words alone can suffice. However, the ability to communicate a vivid, imaginative conception of what you want to see happen can be powerfully motivating. Communicating in ways that instinctively appeal to people is an important part of turning your aim into reality.
My favorite technique is to use a vision statement to describe a day in the life of your target customer enjoying the benefits of your product or service. Discussions around this exercise tend to clarify the value proposition. And casting this story into the customers framework helps establish the magnitude of the value created if the alternatives are apparent.
Vision Statements don’t need to be short. They are not tag lines. They can be a story with details. Keep it manageable. Use what works for your situation. A pictures can be a valuable way to communicate detail with few words. The most elaborate (and expensive) vision statement I saw was a 10 minute video depicting a desired future in the health care industry — cool, but not necessary. Most organizations can be very successful with a well written paragraph.
I concede that sometimes alternate definitions for vision statements can be helpful. When I help all key managers in an organizations make One Page Business Plans for themselves or their teams, I sometimes use vision statements to describe how their team or department might change as a consequence of the strategy. While this can be helpful, customer-centric vision statements are still of primary importance. Without that fundamental value creation, there is no company.
There is no magic formula for creating such a vision, but authors Collins and Porras suggest that there are three conditions necessary for an overall aim to take root in an organization.
- An overall aim must be a reflection of the inner personal needs, values, and motivations of members of the organization.
- There must be an authentic personal commitment.
- Communication and reinforcement are vitally important.
In summary, a Vision is
- “An image of our desired future”
- A vivid description of what things will be like once we have attained the Mission
- Compelling, tangible and immediate
- Described in the present tense
- A richly detailed and visual image
Putting it All Together:
A compelling Vision and Mission can be translated into Goals which are realized through Strategies implemented as Initiatives to generate Results.
“Purpose, Mission, Vision”, James C. Collins and Jerry Porras, July 1989 Stanford Business School Magazine.
“Organizational Vision and Visionary Organizations”, by James C. Collins and Jerry I. Porras, California Management Review, Fall 1991.