One of the most important and fundamental tasks of a business leader is to give the organization a direction by creating a vision.
To be fair, most organizations do indeed have a vision statement… it’s around… somewhere… Usually on the website, under a tab that no one other than maybe an analyst or journalist would click on.
A vision is the fundamental principle that determines where the organization would like to be. From this broad-based direction, emerges the mission that defines how the organization is going to get there. The mission is usually about which constituencies the organization wants to serve: Product, Profit, People, Planet, and the like.
It is from the mission that the organization’s strategy is drawn up. The ‘what’ that will pave the path to the vision. The strategy, along with the value-driven leadership behaviours required to achieve it, defines the climate, which in turn influences performance. A logical interconnected chain with interdependent links.
So if great companies lose their way, chances are, the leadership forgot to check if their strategy was in line with the vision. Or worse: there wasn’t a vision! That’s why everyone jumped right into delivering the strategy. A tactical, shortsighted approach. At other times, the vision is taken for granted. Hey, we’ve got a business to run. Can we keep the ‘English’ to the minimum, please? Because:
- But…every employee is expected to know it. Do they? It isn’t exactly a chromosome in their DNA!
- Oh, yes, it’s on my agenda to communicate it…tomorrow…if I can find the dash thing!
- We’ve been so busy lately. Indian Industry has been on such an overdrive lately, right?
- We’re working on a new and improved one. Which will see the light of day in 2050?
Excuses galore! Fact is, without a vision, an organization is like a football field without goal posts!
The vision is conceived from a set of Values. An effective organization absolutely must have a strong value system! It defines the behaviours that people demonstrate as they drive the business. Values are around integrity, respect, excellence, unity, accountability, the community and the environment.
Once the values are defined, it is time to state The Vision. A short, sustainable statement that defines the organization’s true north. It has to be easy for people to remember the vision if they are to use it successfully. Hence the words need to be carefully selected so that the message is delivered without taking up acres of marketing real estate!
Vision statements should be around attaining a lead position in a specific area, or areas: the customer, community, people, product, stakeholder satisfaction, geography or sector.
Vision Statements exist in many shapes and sizes:
- Aditya Birla Group – To be a premium global conglomerate, with a clear focus on each of the businesses
- Hilton – To fill the earth with the light and warmth of hospitality
- Domino’s Pizza India – Exceptional people on a mission, to be the best pizza delivery company in the world
- Harley Davidson – To fulfill dreams through the experiences of motorcycling
- Kraft Foods – To make today delicious
- Toys ‘R’ Us – To put joy in kids’ hearts and a smile on parents’ faces
- Tata Group - At the Tata group we are committed to improving the quality of life of the communities we serve. We do this by striving for leadership and global competitiveness in the business sectors in which we operate
Some vision statements go into several ‘bullet points’. But then, this is not about judging which one is the best or whether length or size matters. The important thing is for the vision to be relevant, communicated regularly, and prominently visible, so that it gets etched in people’s minds forever.
Maybe it sounds odd, but people need to actually practice the vision – make it work! That’s the logical next step after communication. Whenever leaders find themselves in a quandary, when handling people issues, disputes, or before taking a decision or signing off an approval, just asking the question, ‘is it in line with our vision’, can clear the mind dramatically.
Individual business units too must be encouraged to carve a vision for themselves from out of the overall company vision statement. A strong vision can add to the overall positivity in the organization with everybody looking in the same direction. It provides business partners the comfort of working with an organization that has a goal. Visionary leaders are popular because they give everyone a common sense of purpose.
Okay, here’s a test. Stop the first person you meet on the floor and ask: what is our Company’s Vision?
That would be a good starting point!