Vision and Missionby Rus Slater
Communicating the vision
The corporate visions of losers are often little more than words on paper.
The biggest danger to a vision is that only a small group of people know about and support it; if that is the case, it dies (we are talking about the actual vision, not just the statement). If this happens, you will find yourself back in that situation where your people simply muddle along, collecting their pay cheques and just doing their jobs, but nothing will actually change.
To communicate the vision, it must be driven deep into the organisation and across to all its outermost reaches. If the organisation is global, every country must know, understand and be behind the vision. If the organisation is national, then every region and office must be equally in support of the same vision.
This is one of the primary reasons why people in small organisations find it easier to grasp the ‘vision thing’ than those in larger organisations: there are fewer people to appeal to, less distance for the vision to travel, fewer cultures to cross, and less chance of it being tarnished by ‘Not Invented Here’ or corrupted by the chain of communication.
My experiences have been that, especially in multi-site operations, the further down the food chain you are, the more diluted the message and the less it means to people.
Repetition breeds awareness, acceptance and understanding of your vision. Lee Iacocca’s historic vision for Chrysler was not only trumpeted internally to managers and staff, but also constantly repeated to people outside the organisation.
The vision became a central theme in much of the company’s advertising. Iacocca used every opportunity to share it with consumers, suppliers and shareholders. He even spoke about it on the floor of the US Congress. By doing so, he ensured that it influenced a great number of people, which in turn helped Chrysler achieve its business goals.
This repetition and consistency in the communication of the vision was a critical component of Chrysler’s turnaround and success. Vision, therefore, should be worked into as many situations in the workplace as possible. It should also be integrated into as many communication channels as possible:
- Business presentations
- Training events
- New employee inductions
- Written communications – reports, letterheads, emails
- Annual appraisals
- Business plans at all levels
- Notice boards
- Vehicle livery
- Corporate work-wear
- Advertising and marketing campaigns
- Posters stating the vision in hallways, offices, and lobbies.
You can see why it’s best if a vision is relatively short, or has a short catch phrase that can act on its behalf!
Living the vision
Senior executives should use every opportunity available to share the vision and to act in a manner consistent with it. People, both inside and outside the organisation, will notice when the vision is truly being lived by watching the actions of the business leaders.
What you do speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say.
Effective alignment of behaviours to a vision can be seen when a visitor to your organisation could drop in and infer your vision without having to read it on paper, solely by observing the actions and behaviours of you and your staff.
Communicating the vision as above is not enough on its own. Effectively communicating the vision means that everybody in the organisation really lives the vision it espouses – that you and your people practise what you preach.
Executives must ‘walk the talk’ rather than just ‘stumble the mumble’. Everyone, directors, managers and staff alike, must model behaviours that are consistent with the organisation’s vision. It is through such actions that all members of the business will believe in and live a meaningful manifestation of the vision.
Once all stakeholders share and live the vision, an environment of true alignment with the vision will exist and this will drive the business toward its goals.
The sense of shared vision will guide people’s behaviour and their expectations and will also be self-reinforcing and self-motivating. Once the leader establishes a sense of shared vision within his or her business, not only will the business benefit, but all the members of the team will benefit also.