How to Create a Shared Vision That Works



The Full Steam Ahead! Roadmap

This is a “how to” post – for leaders and team members who want to create a shared vision. Over the years I have written blog posts that provide an explanation of each of these steps. Here I connect the dots by linking those posts with the steps they support.

This is my roadmap for the process of creating a shared vision that not only inspires, but also provides clarity on direction and ongoing guidelines for decision-making.

Step 1: Create a Compelling Team Vision

1) Before you begin, everyone should understand the three elements of a compelling vision and how they are interrelated.

Three Keys to Visions That Work 

A Big Goal Is Not the Same as a Vision 

2) As a team, discuss each of the three elements of a compelling vision. Agree on what is essential and capture the key words that clearly convey the ideas that have been agreed upon. Do not finalize the wording.

• First •  Discuss and agree on your team’s purpose.

How to Identify Your Team or Organization’s Purpose 

How To Write a Mission Statement in 5 Steps

• Second • Identify the values needed to support your team’s purpose.

How to Surface and Align Team Values

 5 Pitfalls to Avoid When Identifying Team Values

5 Tips to Ensure Your Values Unify Your Team, Not Divide It

• Third •  Create a picture of what it would look like if you were fulfilling your purpose and living your values consistently.

Create a Vision With Staying Power

The Power of Picture: 7 Tips to Create Your Picture

3) Decide how and when the vision statement will be written. Don’t get trapped into wordsmithing during your meeting. It is easiest for a couple of people to use the notes to write an initial draft after the meeting and then send it to the rest of the team for feedback. Consider these guidelines when writing the vision statement:

Vision Statements That Work: The Long and Short of It

Step 2: Honestly Describe the Current Reality

1) Examine your current realities in relation to your vision. Identify what’s working and what’s not, your strengths and weaknesses.

A simple “Force-Field Analysis” can work well in this step as mentioned in Create an Unbalancing Force

2) Develop plans for collecting additional information to verify perceptions.

3) Understand the importance of the creative tension so you can use it to your advantage.

The Shortest Distance Between What Is and What Could Be


 Step 3: Identify Key Strategies and “Structural Integrity” that Support Moving Forward

1) Identify the greatest opportunities to close the gap between your vision and your current reality.

  • Look for high-leverage strategic goals – those that will allow you to leapfrog forward toward your vision?
  • Include some quick wins – to help you see progress and stay motivated.

6 Tips to Set Goals That Will Get You Where You Want to Go

2) Create “structural integrity” by ensuring your systems and structures will not derail you as you move forward.

How to Keep Your Team Goals on Track


Step 4: Plan for Involvement and Communication

For a vision to become reality, you must pay attention not only to what it says, but to how it’s created, how it’s communicated and how it’s lived.

1) Develop a plan for ongoing communications within the team to coordinate efforts, to provide feedback on your progress and to keep your vision alive. Also discuss how to communicate the results of this meeting with other stakeholders.

2) If this work is being done by a leadership team that wants to bring the vision forward to the rest of the organization, your work during this step is to create a plan for involving others in shaping the vision, identifying the roadblocks and the strategies and goals to close the gap.

Vision: How It’s Created Is As Important As What It Says

You will need to present the vision statement as a draft and ask for feedback. Be open to requests for changes in language that do not change the essence of your vision. However, if there is a pattern of requests for substantive changes, it’s possible you may have missed something important and should revisit the first step. You will also need to have ongoing dialogue throughout the organization about the roadblocks and strategies to move forward.

There are many ways to involve the larger organization in this conversation. Large group technologies make it possible to bring the entire organization or a significant number together for conversation and to make decisions in real-time.

Try Collaborative Change for a Change

Other more traditional processes can be used, such as holding a series of cross-company meetings, as long as the communication channels remain open so the results of the discussions flow back to the senior leaders, who in turn communicate their responses.

3) As you move toward finalizing your vision, test it against these benchmarks to ensure it is a DRIVING Vision.

4) Have a discussion on the role of leadership. When a vision is understood and owned by all, the role of leadership is to remove roadblocks and provide support – in other words, to serve those who are working to achieve the vision.

Step 5: Make Personal Commitments

Never leave the room without putting yourself in the vision. As soon as you identify your vision, if you believe in it, you must start to live it, behave consistently with it, and model the values.

In this last step, each team member identifies specific goals and actions they will personally take that demonstrate they are living the vision right now, even as they continue to develop the vision and work out the details. When they share their goals, they should also explain what they need from other team members for support. This is one of the most powerful steps in the process.

Don’t Be Great, Do Great

Have the Courage to Be Real:  When the Best Techniques Don’t Work

Note: More information on these concepts and the roadmap can be found in the book  Full Steam Ahead! Unleash the Power of Vision by Ken Blanchard and Jesse Lyn Stoner and in the facilitator guide The Full Steam Ahead! Field Guide.

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30 comments to How to Create a Shared Vision That Works

  • Jesse,

    What a great resource here on creating a vision and making it work. In particular, the last step is one of the most important yet it is often missing from the process. Identifying and then following through on those personal commitments to enable the new vision is essential. Too often, without this step by all involved, the vision becomes hollow and on the sidelines.

    Thanks for highlighting this vision process and the great resources included.


    • Jesse Lyn Stoner Jesse Lyn Stoner

      So glad you picked up on that, Jon. The last step is the glue. Actually, earlier, when going through the process of identifying the vision, during the third part of creating images, I also have people put themselves in the picture by asking questions like, “where are you? what are you doing? how do you feel about others? what are your relationships like? how do you feel about yourself?” Occasionally a leader is unable to find themselves in the picture, and that is really helpful information for them and food for thought.

      Ultimately a vision doesn’t work unless it lives in the minds and hearts of all involved and unless it guides our actions. Without taking action, it is simply an idea.

  • Jesse –

    What a great article and clear process to not only develop a shared vision but also move forward in that process to see and drive results. Thank you for sharing! I look forward to digging in more to this post with the other articles. Very helpful!


    • Jesse Lyn Stoner Jesse Lyn Stoner

      Thanks, Will. I know this is a very different kind of blog post. I’ve been laying the foundation for it since I began my blog almost three years ago. There is just too much information to write this process as one blog post. So I had the idea that I would write up all of the steps as individual posts that were useful pieces by themselves, and then to link them up to show the roadmap.

      If someone wanted to facilitate the process of creating a shared vision with their team, this post outlines the steps and provides the content.

  • EXCELLENT post Jesse! You had me at hello! (with the visual)

    In a big way, this reminds me of practical nursing notes similar to styles like SOAPIER or POP charting.


    S – subject data (what the patient describes to the nurse and doctor regarding what they are feeling and experiencing, their symptoms, location of pain, basically…what is wrong)

    O – objective data (what the nurse/doctor observes in the patient via visually, thru vital signs, diagnostic tests etc)

    A – Assessment that introduces diagnosis based on above data

    P – Plan – how to treat the problems related to diagnosis

    I – Implementation of the plan

    E – Evaluation of the plan

    R – Revising plan as needed based on whether symptoms improve or get worse

    Your visual is a fantastic at a glance roadmap that helps us understand the process and critical points along the way from the conception of the idea/vision to full implementation.

    Love it!

    • Jesse Lyn Stoner Jesse Lyn Stoner

      Hi Samantha, So glad you liked the visual. In many ways, the Full Steam Ahead! Roadmap is a similar to other planning processes. What makes it different is the content during each step. In step one, we have unpacked the 3 elements of a compelling vision, and show how to work on them separately and then to combine it into a powerful vision.

      But over the years I learned that creating the vision is not enough to ensure it will be owned and lived. Too many people let go of the vision when confronted with the “creative tension” of the discrepancy between their dreams and current reality, so I added that into the process in order to prepare for it and to develop strategies for moving forward. I also discovered that “what is important is not only what it says, but also how it is created and how it is lived.” And so I began experimenting with steps 4 and 5.

      By the way, some people like to start with an examination of current reality, but I have found that it dampens the scope and grandeur of the vision when you do that. Sometimes I do start with a look at the larger environment – trends and what is happening in the world, politics, technology, the industry, etc. and at a big picture level within the organization – but that is to set the stage and focus for the work.

      ps. Thanks for sharing the SOAPIER process. It looks especially helpful for patient care management and could be transferred to project management. I was wondering it includes identifying the overall purpose of the plan, such as “improving quality of patient life” or “helping patient regain independence” or “supporting patient recovery”

      • Absolutely love it Jesse! I haven’t yet read your Full Steam Ahead book and I have a few on my list of things to read here at some point! : )

        I really do like your style of teaching and visuals really help the learning/comprehension process.

        I wanted to share the SOAPIER process with you as the similarities and difference help me relate to your process. Also, it’s funny to me that even though I’ve left healthcare, it hasn’t really left ME! I still look through the nursing/healthcare lens and use what I learned in those settings to apply in different areas/industries.

        You are a wonderful teacher via the written word. (as I haven’t had the experience in person) Your posts make a great deal of sense to me and you have an uncanny ability to condense the complex into more manageable, easier to understand, bite-sized pieces.

  • Great post, Jesse. I love the way you’ve outlined the process for creating a shared vision by leveraging the wisdom of your previous posts. I especially appreciate the line from your last post (Have the Courage to be Real): “if you want to make a difference when it really counts, you need to act with your heart as well as your head.” Some of the most compelling (and successful) visionaries I know of go beyond following a prescriptive process; they incorporate their heart into their vision, and in doing so, are able to engage, inspire and execute their vision with purposeful passion.

    • Jesse Lyn Stoner Jesse Lyn Stoner

      Thanks, Sharon. It’s been my intention to write this post since I started my blog almost 3 years ago. I’ve been seeding the individual posts and have been waiting until I had a large enough readership. Although someone could purchase the Full Steam Ahead Field Guide for the step-by-step manual to facilitate the process, this is a way to get the information into the world in a different way – to make it widely available.

      There’s too much content for it to be a single blog post. But this post organizes the material so it’s easily accessible. It is an experiment in a different way to use a blog post, and I’m delighted that it is being so widely read and shared.

      Much appreciation for your comments. It takes courage to move beyond the prescriptive guidelines and to incorporate your heart into your vision. But in the end, that’s what makes it real.

  • There’s no such thing a typical organization – they are all different. I particularly like your approach because it looks to me like it can be adapted to the many variables that drive organizations.

  • Absolutely superb! This is a topic that creates so much confusion and fear for many business owners – they get overwhelmed and intimidated. I have copied this to all of my social media channels – an excellent and well-crafted way to show people in a clear and concise way how handle a difficult topic. Thanks so much Jesse!!!

    • Jesse Lyn Stoner Jesse Lyn Stoner

      Thanks so much, John. Far too many business owners are confused by the “vision thing” or think that to get a vision they need to be struck by the “eureka” lightning bolt.

  • Very nice post with simple schema for thinking about the various phases. Although it’s not always the case, I usually think about a shared vision exercise as part of a “problem” or “opportunity”. The team needs the vision to change a current state.

    To that end, I would also think about a step zero “Creating a Crisis” intended to make people uncomfortable with the current state / path. “If we continue as we are moving today , Competitor X will . . . . . “. There needs to be impetus for change or people will continue on their comfortable road.

    I might also thing about a step six “Institutionalizing The New Direction”. It’s often critical to build in systems and metrics to make sure the Personal Commitments really get lived. What Gets Measured, Gets Improved!

    But thanks for a nice outline of the process, well done!!

    • Jesse Lyn Stoner Jesse Lyn Stoner

      Excellent points, Jeffrey. I agree that personal commitments should be written as observable behaviors and with a timeframe. Otherwise they are just good intentions. Creating a sense of urgency and institutionalizing the new direction are essential for major change efforts. However, not all visions require significant change. Quite often the vision is about clarifying and focusing on where they are already going, or in the case of startups, deciding where they want to go, and the natural excitement propels them forward without needing a problem to goose them. When looking at a major change efforts, creating a vibrant, unifying vision is only one of the seven success factors, which I describe in The Change Checklist. I have included the link because it addresses these important issues around change you have raised. Much thanks for deepening and extending the conversation!

  • Wow Jesse Lyn! What a great resource you have here for small business. I’ve seen how your posts resonate with so many people, (countless retweets on my own posts on Twitter). I am so glad to refer people to your site, because I know they will learn so much in a concise way. Like this post, they will find a good short read and be introduced to a concept, and then be able to go deeper if they desire. This is heady stuff that takes most small business owners many years to learn on their own. Thanks for sharing your accumulated wisdom and for inspiring us!

    • Jesse Lyn Stoner Jesse Lyn Stoner

      Thanks so much for your feedback, Geri. The topics I address in my blog come from over 25 years as a leader and consulting with leaders, and is one of the ways I “pay it forward” at this point in my life. It means a lot to know that my efforts make a difference.

  • Fay Kandarian

    Jesse, your blog continues to share the wisdom that so many have had direct access to through the years. Thank you for your generosity in sharing with the broader universe.

  • Jesse, I’ve been following your posts about Vision and really like the way you’ve pulled it all together in this one post. I’ve bookmarked the posts and included them in my Evernote file. I use this to share ideas with others, so, I’ll be sharing your for some time, I’m sure.

    • Jesse Lyn Stoner Jesse Lyn Stoner

      Thanks, Dan. I’ve enjoy watching your vision for Lead With Giants take form and substance. May you continue to go full steam ahead!

  • Wow!! What an amazing post. You captured your entire book right here and the graphic is superb. Agree that the last step–personal commitment is probably the single MOST important step because a group can go through this entire process but without signing in to LIVE and ACT, the time is wasted. Bravo Jesse

    • Jesse Lyn Stoner Jesse Lyn Stoner

      Thanks Eileen. So great that you saw that. It feels great to get it out in the world in another way. I think you might understand the concepts better if you read the book, because of the flow, but this post actually summarizes the steps better than we did in the book.
      I love the last step, too. There’s a lot of energy in the room and it’s a great way to end the session. Signing up in front of witnesses who will hold you accountable is powerful. Of course, in the end, following through on all aspects of the roadmap is essential (aligning strategies, goals, systems, processes and practices). A real vision is lived, not framed.

  • Hi Jesse, great post – the graphic is excellent.

    I would also draw the parallel between this and organisational change management.

    For example if you take Kotter’s Leading Change, 8-step model. He talks about creating the burning platform, building the shared vision, the importance of communication and the actions necessary to move towards your end goal.

    The similarity is not really surprising if you think of an organisation achieving its vision in terms of a series of organisational changes.

    • Jesse Lyn Stoner Jesse Lyn Stoner

      Hi Martin, Excellent points. I, too, see Kotter’s work as something that can (and should) wrap around this when the vision is part of a change effort. However, not all visions require significant change. Quite often the vision is about clarifying and re-focusing on where the organization is already going, or in the case of startups, deciding where they want to go. In both cases, the natural excitement propels them forward without needing a burning platform.

  • Raymond

    Dear Jesse
    I am soon to be launching my Blog addressing the fundamentals of leadership. I have pondered for many hours on how to present my vision. Thanks for providing your guidance; I need ponder no more. I look forward to posting many articles. Kind Regards Raymond

  • Julie

    Hi Jesse,

    I really like this – great visual. Love the links to your other blog articles.

    You might be interested in my book which has just been published: Hodges, J. & Gill, R. (2015) Sustaining Change in Organizations. London:Sage

    • Jesse Lyn Stoner Jesse Lyn Stoner

      Thank you, Julie. I’m glad you liked this. It unpacks my book. Over a two year period, I wrote a stand-alone blog post on every major concept in my book. And here, I linked them all up. Congratulations to you on the release of your new book! Sage is a wonderful publisher. I took a quick look at your book on Amazon. It looks like a rigorous and thorough approach to what organizational change is really about and will be of great value to serious practitioners of OD. As you point out in your introduction, the populist “karaoke” approach does not serve anyone well.

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