What makes a vision work? Why do some visions galvanize people toward great achievement while others cause your eyes to glaze over?
What all great visions have in common is they provide an answer to these three questions:
1) Destination: Where are we going?
2) Purpose: Why do we exist? What greater good do we serve?
3) Values: What principles guide our decisions and actions on our journey?
When a vision address all three of these questions, a tremendous amount of energy is unleashed. There is a higher level of commitment because employees are able to see the relationship between the direction of their company and what they personally believe in and care deeply about. Everyone is clear about what they are doing, why they are doing it, and how their work contributes.
Vision provides a picture of a highly desirable future state – a picture of the end-result; not the process for getting there.
It is more specific and tangible than just a vague sense or “positive thinking.” It’s something you can actually see in your imagination, like “a computer on every desk.”
When people share a common vision, they share the same picture of success. For example, the shared vision at CNN is for the network to be viewed in every country in the world in English as well as the language of that region. It will be easy for all members of CNN to identify how close they are to achieving their desired future state.
Having a picture of the end-result creates tremendous energy. Consider the vision of the Apollo Moon project: “to place a man on the moon by 1969.” This clear picture generated and focused an incredible amount of energy. When they began the project, the technology to achieve it was not even in place. However, they overcame seemingly insurmountable obstacles and their performance was outstanding and spectacular.
However, a picture of the destination alone is not enough to guide people toward the future. They must also understand the purpose. Understanding “why?” helps you answer “what’s next?” once a milestone has been accomplished.
Why did the US want to place a man on the moon by 1969? Was it to win the space race? to begin the Star Wars initiative? or in the spirit of Star Trek, to boldly go where no one has gone before? Lacking a clear statement of purpose, (to answer “What next?”) NASA has shown neither clear direction nor outstanding performance since.
Define your purpose from the viewpoint of your customer.
Mary Parker Follett, a pioneering business consultant in the 1920’s, was asked to help a troubled window shade company. When asked to define their business they said, “We produce window shades.” She asked them to consider their business not from the viewpoint of the products and services they offer but from the viewpoint of their customers. Why do people buy window shades? –to control the amount of light coming through their windows and to create privacy. Considering their business from this viewpoint opened up new opportunities for producing and selling because there are many ways to control light and privacy.
CNN says they are in the business of providing hard-breaking news as it unfolds—not the entertainment business. They provide news on demand because the world has changed and people no longer have time or want to gather in front of the TV at 7 pm. CNN defines their purpose from the viewpoint of their customers’ needs. Understanding their purpose allows them to easily make important strategic decisions such as their quick investment in technology that equipped them to broadcast during the Gulf War.
However, a picture of the destination and a clear purpose are still not enough. Clear purpose explains what you do, but it does not give any guidelines for how how your purpose is to be accomplished. Clearly stating and living your values fuels the passion that keeps you focused in the face of obstacles, adversity, and change. Values tap into people’s feelings and evoke standards people care deeply about.
Values are deeply held beliefs of what is right or fundamentally important and provide guidelines for our choices and actions. They describe how we intend to operate, on a day-by-day basis, as we pursue our vision.
Because their values were a real guiding force, Johnson & Johnson leaders were able to quickly make the right decision during the famous Tylenol tampering incident in 1982.
ONE STATEMENT – A Vision That Works Includes All Three
Neither clear destination, purpose or values alone will provide ongoing guidance and inspiration. Vision statements that works include all three.
Henry Ford envisioned the common people driving around in automobiles. He saw access for everyone, not just the elite. The purpose of his company was to build and make available affordable transportation (automobiles). The underlying values were to create access for everyone, not just the rich. The destination – a multitude of cars on the road, driven by all kinds of people. As his vision became clear, the means to achieve it also became clear. His strategy, mass production, was born from his vision.
There is greater trust in organizations where people know they share the same purpose and values and desire the same end-result, and because of that, there is more room for differences, creativity and innovation.