“Vision is knowing who you are, where you’re going and what will guide your journey.”
– Ken Blanchard and Jesse Stoner
- Who you are – is your purpose
- Where you’re going – is your picture of the future
- What will guide your journey – are your values
The Three Elements of a Compelling Vision
- Purpose is your organization’s reason for existence. Choose a significant purpose that’s not about you, but is about providing value to those who use your products or services. Consider your purpose from your customer’s viewpoint. For example, a window shade company might sell window shades but their purpose might be to light control and privacy.
- Picture of the future is a results-oriented picture of where you are going and what it will look like when your purpose is fulfilled. It’s not something vague, like being the best or number one, but something you can clearly visualize like “a computer on every desk.”
- Values are the guidelines for daily behavior and decision-making. When choosing values, it is important to ask “what values are need to support the organization’s purpose?” For example, Eileen Fisher (designer of women’s clothes) should have a value around creativity. But you would probably not want your accounting firm to have that value. Reliable and accurate would be better values for them. I wanted the values of my lawn care company to include environmentally safe.
Why is it important to include all three elements?
- When you are aware of and intentional about your purpose, you operate in a bigger framework and are able to answer the question, “What’s next?”
- When you consciously act from your values, you treat others and yourself with respect and create an environment that will support your efforts.
- When you see a picture of your potential, the tremendous power of mental imagery increases your likelihood of achieving it.
BUT… This Is Not Enough
To really understand what is vision, and to ensure you create a compelling one, pay attention to the Three How’s:
How it’s created,
How it’s communicated, and
How it’s lived.
You will have a smarter vision. It will be more deeply understood by all. And it will generate an enthusiasm and commitment throughout your organization that will keep you moving forward over the long run.
For a more in-depth explanation, see the book Full Steam Ahead! Unleash the Power of Vision at Work and in Your Life by Ken Blanchard and Jesse Lyn Stoner.
Love this post-my organization has always had a laser focus on results. But in order to create change and positively impact improvement, the team has to believe in the mission and values. We are now focusing on the experience our staff has, seeing how they feel their work product impacts the organizations actions, and how it ultimately impacts outcomes.
Great to hear your team is focusing on these things now, Kathy. Here’s another post that might be helpful to you: How to Create a Shared Vision That Works. Best wishes on your journey. May you go full steam ahead!
Thank you Jesse for beautiful definition of vision. I love it, it is very helpful to understand vision.
So glad you found it helpful!
In the Harvard Business Review article Your Company’s Purpose Is Not Its Vision. Mission, or Values*, Graham Kenny states: “A vision statement says what the organization wishes to be like in some years’ time.”
This common way of thinking about vision is flawed in two ways. Your approach addresses the first of these flaws directly: the need for an inspiring picture of the state of affairs the organisation wishes to bring into being, rather than (or in addition to) a statement.
“What the organization wishes to be like in some years’ time” is the other flaw. You hint at this in your article, and it needs to be made explicit.
In your Three Elements approach, the Picture of the Future part of the vision is an image of realised potential: a depiction of how the world is enriched when the organization’s value generation capability is fully harnessed and the organization is living its purpose to the full. The organization is there in the picture, along with the other constituents of what I call the ‘enterprise ecosystem’— the complete set of stakeholders together with entities such as activist groups, anti-clients** and competitors.
“What the organization wishes to be like” is simply the primary means for achieving that end, and not an end in itself.
** Anti-clients are non-clients or former clients who, for various reasons, do not trust your organization. Whether ‘fair’ or not, their grievances are real to them. Anti-clients may actively promote lack of trust in your organisation via their social networks and elsewhere. Source: Tom Graves, Tetradian. http://weblog.tetradian.com/2012/10/08/how-anticlients-happen/
I completely agree with you, Jack. The vision is about the end-result, not the process to get there. There is tremendous power in holding a vivid picture of the end-result you intend to create. However, a picture of the end-result, without clarity of purpose is only a goal. (See: A Big Goal Is Not a Vision)
I especially appreciate your point that a vision must enrich the world. A noble purpose is what helps us stay committed when the road is not easy. To see the significance of its purpose, you must view the organization in relationship with its environment. I like your term “enterprise ecosystem.”
ps. I would point out another flaw with the definition you shared: the word “wishes” is vague and lacks power. “Intends” implies “commitment.”
Thank you taking the time to share your insights here and help deepen the understanding of how to use this important concept.
I will reiterate the wisdom of Proverbs 29:18 “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” And, MLK, Jr. saying, “I have a dream” He did not say, “I have a plan.”
Some people who have visions are given medication and hospitalized; others become great leaders. The difference is whether or not the vision is grounded in the reality of what can be actualized or is merely the proverbial “pie in the sky” meaning pleasant to imagine but unattainable. Visions and goals and moving toward them require that those involved are stakeholders in the vision and purpose. In other words the leader must have the capacity to spread the contagious spirit of ownership.
I recently came upon this great quote: “The distance between your dreams and reality is called action.” Bystanders do not turn a vision into reality. It requires the wholehearted participation of all stakeholders. Thanks for adding to the conversation, Gary.
hello am pastor Ezekiel Ibrahim from Arusha Tanzania am so excited with your lesson about vision and looking forward to see more teachings from you
Hello Pastor Ibrahim, I am happy to hear you found my article helpful. Best regards, Jesse
I Love this post, but i need more explanation on how to picture the future i dream about. Please
Check these posts: How to Use Mental Imagery to Achieve Your Goals and Dig Below Your Dreams to Discover Your Vision
I have really enjoyed the articulation in your writings. Very insightful.
Rev. Hankins from Zambia.
Thank you Reverend Hankins.
thank for this explanation of vision, vision without action it is wasting your energy