A Vision Statement is like the North Star
Forming a strategic vision should provide long-term direction, delineate what kind of enterprise the company is trying to become, and infuse the organization with a sense of purposeful action. Vision serves as a unifying focal point for everyone in the organization — like a North star. In fact, your vision statement needs to be something you can achieve at some point in the future. Visions are also referred to as big, hairy, audacious goals or BHAGs. A vision statement can be as far reaching as 100 years or as short as five years. Some people think if you aren’t planning for 20 years in the future, you’re being too short-sighted. Others say that the world is changing too quickly to plan more than a few years out. Either way, your vision statement needs to work for your company and the industry you operate in. I recommend developing a vision statement that’s far reaching but attainable. If you attain it in a shorter amount of time, congratulations! But if you don’t push your thinking out far enough, you find yourself being too tactical in your strategic planning.
Your vision should include
- A vision statement: A short, concise statement of your organization’s future state.
- A vivid description: A long list of words and phrases that describe what that future state is like. Because the items in the above bulleted list go hand-in-hand, you can develop them simultaneously. Here are two examples of visions or BHAGs that were very lofty at the time they were established:
* We will put a man on the moon before the end of the decade and bring him back (President John F. Kennedy).
* A computer on every desk and in every home using great software as an empowering tool (Microsoft).
These two statements don’t sound so crazy now, do they?
Elements of an effective vision statement
Your vision statement needs to incorporate many elements. The following list contains elements that you can include in an effective vision statement (you don’t have to use every one, but keep them in mind when you’re writing or evaluating):
- Audacious: Represents a dream that’s beyond what you think is possible. It represents the mountaintop your company is striving to reach. Visioning takes you out beyond your present reality.
- Capitalizes on core competencies: Builds on your company’s core competencies. It builds on what you’ve already established: company history, customer base, strengths, and unique capabilities, resources, and assets.
- Futurecasting: Provides a picture of what your business looks like in the future.
- Inspiring: Engaging language that inspires. It creates a vivid image in people’s heads that provokes emotion and excitement. It creates enthusiasm and poses a challenge.
- Motivating: Clarifies the direction in which your organization needs to move and keeps everyone pushing forward to reach it.
- Purpose-driven: Gives employees a larger sense of purpose, so they see themselves as building a cathedral instead of laying stones.
Imagining your future — vividly
The vivid description in your vision needs to be just that: vivid. You should include a list of ideas, phrases, adjectives, and so forth that thoroughly explain what it’s like to achieve the vision statement. Try to imagine your organization when you reach your vision. Your vivid description explains what it feels like. Your description should be vibrant and engaging and should translate the vision from words into pictures that people can carry around in their heads.
Here are some helpful questions to develop a vivid description of your vision:
- What does your company look like? How many employees do you have?
- Where are you located? How many offices are at this location? What is the office environment like?
- Who is on the staff? What are their skills, degrees, and areas of expertise? How does everyone work together? What is the culture like?
- Who are your clients? How many customers do you have?
Examples of big, hairy, audacious vision statements
Because it’s always fun (and educational) to see what other organizations are aiming for, here is a variety of vision statements:
BearingPoint: To be the world’s most influential and respected business advisor and systems integrator.
Chemtura: To be the world’s best specialty chemicals company.
DuPont: To be the world’s most dynamic science company, creating sustainable solutions essential to a better, safer, and healthier life for people everywhere.
Health Care for All: All people in our state will have access to quality healthcare, regardless of ability to pay.
Heinz: To be the world’s premier food company, offering nutritious, superior tasting foods to people everywhere.
M3 Planning: To start a strategy revolution.
McDonald’s: To dominate the global foodservice industry.
Novo Nordisk: To be the world’s leading diabetes care company.
Pershing General Hospital: To be the provider of first choice for our community and a leader in rural healthcare for Nevada.
Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic: For all people to have equal access to the printed word.
Visa: A world in which buyers and sellers can conduct commerce anywhere, anytime, and in any way they choose.
What type of projects are you working on? How many products or services are you selling?
- What is your industry, business community, or media saying about your company? What are the headlines? What publications or TV stations are you featured on? What awards have you won?
Updating your vision statement and vivid description
Updating or creating a new vision statement can be one of the most exciting parts of strategic planning. Creating your vision statement can be achieved in a fashion similar to that of creating your mission and values statements.
Follow these steps to create your vision:
1. Gather your senior staff and key employees together for a one- to two hour meeting.
Visioning is best done in a group setting. If your group is bigger than five people, break up into small groups of three to five to allow everyone to have a voice in the process.
2. Generate a list of ideas and phrases based on the responses to these three questions:
• What will our organization look like five to ten years from now?
• What does success look like?
• What are we aspiring to achieve?
Allow the group to brainstorm, even if some of the ideas are totally wacky.
3. Ask the group to pair up ideas that have similar themes.
Identify the ideas that most closely resemble the vision for the organization.
4. Ask one or two people to develop a draft vision statement based on the condensed list of ideas.
The vision statement should be short and use verbs phrases that are forward-looking such as to be.
5. Ask another one or two people to generate the vivid description based on all of the themes identified.
When developing the vivid description, use the future tense, such as “We will . . .”
6. Bring the vision statement and vivid description back to the group.
Revise until you have something everyone agrees on.
7. Evaluate the vision statement against the mission and values statements. Make sure they all connect.
Envisioning your personal future
Because your personal life and your business life are intertwined, you should have a BHAG that runs in tandem with your corporate vision statement. This statement is called the Owner’s Vision Statement and isn’t necessarily shared with your employees but is developed specifically to develop a single focus point for all equity shareholders.
Many small businesses don’t have owner’s founders haven’t looked at life outside of business ownership. An owner’s vision, even visions because their though it may seem far out, is imperative for anyone who’s founded or purchased a business.
From the Book " Strategic Planning for dummies - By Erica Olsen" This is an excellent book and is highly recommended if you wish to learn more about strategic planning.
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