Vision and Missionby Rus Slater
A vision statement describes the desired future position of the organisation.
Geoff Cooke, the England Rugby Union manager, presented his vision to the 1988 national squad in a room in the Petersham Hotel, overlooking the Thames. The vision was that England were capable of reaching the 1991 World Cup Final and would do so. At the time of this somewhat startling announcement, England were far from a successful side. Their record throughout the Eighties had been pretty abysmal. Yet Cooke delivered his vision with belief. It was his vision that helped the team reach the final three years later. (Surprisingly his vision was really accurate: he said they could reach the final, and indeed they did, but Australia won it!)
An organisation can and should have a vision, whether that organisation is in the commercial, public, charity or even the ‘spiritual sector’. Within the organisation, it is perfectly reasonable for individual departments and functions to have their own specific vision.
An organisational vision is a ‘big picture’ aspiration for its own future. The vision of a business defines who and what the business is and where it is going in the grand scheme of things.
Perhaps one of the finest illustrations of a vision that was wonderfully crafted and perfectly executed was the vision articulated by Lee Iacocca when he was chairman of Chrysler Corporation. Iacocca’s vision was this:
Our goal is to be the best. What else is there? If you can find a better car, buy it.
In this simple statement, he set out a clear vision for his business and provided an ideal all employees could strive to reach. He also made it clear that the vision was for public consumption and that, if the company failed to achieve it, they accepted the consequences.
It built loyalty, set a high standard of excellence and gave his floundering organisation a strong sense of purpose and direction. This vision is credited, at least in part, for the historic turnaround of the Chrysler Corporation.
All in 20 words! No ‘buzz-words’. This vision statement is clear, concise and easy to remember. These are the keys to a clearly articulated vision.
In the modern world, with its overwhelming materialism and constant change, it is not easy to create a vision that stands up for long and has relevance to all the stakeholders. Given the constant overload of information, it is very easy for the vision to be lost in the background noise.
One of the major challenges for many public sector organisations is providing any consistency of vision for their staff to strive for when they are being subjected to constant changes of vision from the political establishment that controls them.
In its broadest sense, a vision is a dream about the future. It is a word picture that conjures up the best possible future as seen by the guiding members of an organisation. It is a description of the organisation being very, very successful many years in the future.
A vision for a business organisation should not be an easy task to achieve. It should be a colossal task, but it should also be based in reality. If it becomes unrealistic the organisational members will lose morale and motivation to achieve the vision.
Some visions motivate more than others. Staff at the BBC became much more engaged when the UK public broadcaster’s vision was changed from ‘to be the best managed organisation in the public sector’ and became ‘to be the world’s most creative organisation’.
The vision is not just about what people will see, it must also be about how people will feel when the vision is realised. Emotion is the engine of passion and motivation. Without an emotional component, it is just a statement rather than a call to action.
Summary is a catchy phrase
Although a full vision statement may be many paragraphs to fully describe the imagined future, it will need a catch phrase that encapsulates the essence of the vision and acts as a shortcut in people’s minds. The shortcut or catchphrase is an activation button that triggers the feelings and emotions wrapped up in the vision.
Best possible outcome
Measure your organisation against its goals, targets and objectives – not its vision. That means that the vision can really reach for the best outcome that just might be possible. Even if it’s a long shot – have a go!
Shoot for the moon! Even if you miss, you’ll still be among the stars.