Aricles: Visioning with Strategic Intent

Revisiting Visioningwith Strategic Intent

Putting the right Vision in place could make 2018 less uncertain!  In fact, from over 25 years of  working with companies to help them increase their ability to compete and win – the greatest weakness I’ve seen has been the lack of taking Visioning seriously and not aligning every thought, decision, and action with one’s True North produces waste.  And that’s a waste damages your ability to compete and win in our new & uncertain 2018 global world. With the coming NAFTA threat – AND – the emerging opportunities of the CETA and TPP trade agreements – the need for Visioning has never been greater!
The challenge:  To Seamlessly align your people, processes & technologies with the vision you chose

Vision 101 ~ One more  time 

The success of any organization is dependant upon its Vision.  And, the formation of that Vision is always the responsibility of its Leadership – NOT the masses!  The word Vision means ‘a future desired state’ which is simple in concept, but difficult to ‘Make Operational’.  General Colin Powell defined Leadership as ‘The ability to generate followers’ toward a new state.  Again, it is always the job & challenge of leaders to determine and impart the desired Vision to their people – along with the sense of ownership and commitment needed to drive to its achievement.   For Vision to succeed, leaders must believe in it – and, commit themselves to lead others to make that Vision real.  As you reading through this article, be prepared to stop when your ‘gut’ grabs you when it spots  something of value and relevance.

Vision’s Prime Job – To Give Direction!

The Visioning process is the critical leadership tool needed to impart to others, the direction and understanding of the future desired state to be attained.  It means leaders must know and understand the people they lead to succeed.  In other words,  keep it simple and don’t hesitate to describe your Vision as ‘a place’, ‘a destination’, or the True North for the organisation.  The clearer the picture/vision is, the more rapidly it can be grasped by others.  Everyone is a leader at some time in their lives, whether as a parent, a team leader, an employee, a church volunteer, or a corporarte leader.  Everyone needs to know what the outcome looks like to go ‘all in’ and support each other.  Simply speaking, everyone must be able to see and understand the desired outcome/target – and, their personal role, in contributing to a successful outcome.

Sustainable Visions must be:

1. Leader-led and directed
2. Understood, shared and supported
3. Comprehensive, and detailed with everyone clear on the role they play in achieving the Vision
4. Positive and inspiring to be sustainable

Remember, Visions impact Hearts and Minds

•    Creating the vision demands both head and heart
•    Effective visions have to be grounded in analytically sound thinking to be feasible. But they must also be tied to the deeply felt values of the leaders creating them; who those leaders/ managers are; what they care about; and, ultimately where they want the group to go


Describes how we will behave on the way to achieving our vision. It is in the Mission that we define how we will treat and impact shareholders, employees, customers, stakeholders, etc. while we are in pursuit of the vision


Are the beliefs that the constituents of the group hold dear. Values can be used to measure the correctness of one’s Vision (direction) and protect you from adopting an illegal or inappropriate direction. Values become a kind of inner compass that guides the collective actions of the group.

Developing a Vision and Strategy

A successful vision is essential to any change process for three reasons…

1.0  It clarifies the direction that the organization is taking. It has been thought of as a unifying ‘laser dot on the wall’ that aligns the trajectory of all toward the future desired state. A good Vision answers the question “Where are we going?” in clarity and detail.

2.0  It motivates people to align their actions with future and longer-term departmental and company interests. Change takes people out of their comfort zones and requires people to do things they have not done before. A good vision helps show the promise of a better future that’s worth sacrificing for today. Once mutually understood it aligns people and reduces the possibilities of embarrassment going forward (Never forget that the greatest human fear, is the fear of humiliation and embarrassment – it is not death (on an average day).

3.0  It aligns and helps coordinate thinking and action. If everybody is on the same page, and knows where the organization is going, decisions come faster.  Individuals take action with confidence – which, in turn, builds engagement. Self-confidence rises as they act without constantly checking with others because they know where they are going.

Without a shared sense of vision, people will be in constant conflict because they are not on the same page and the fear of humiliation is present. Without a shared vision there is poor/no alignment and from misalignment comes waste  – and from such unnecessary waste comes diminished competitiveness.

Characteristics of Effective Visions

Effective visions have at least six key characteristics:

1.0   They convey an picture of what the future will be like.
2.0   They appeal to the long-term interests of everyone – including employees, customers, stockholders, or anyone else with a stake in the firm or group. Poor visions that ignore the legitimate interests of some groups will be hurt – by customers who stop buying, or employees who kill change through passive resistance.
3.0   They consist of realistic and attainable goals. Visions must be ambitious enough to force people out of boring comfortable routines. Becoming 5 percent better at something is not visionary. Becoming the best is. But setting stretch goals is not the same as setting impossible goals. Impossible goals soon kill credibility and don’t motivate action. Vague generalizations or pipe dreams aren’t visionary and respect fades.
4.0   They are clear enough to guide decision making. Effective visions are focused enough to help employees decide which actions are important;  which need assistance; and those which are out of bounds. Visions that are too vague – “to be a great company”, for example – give people no clue or direction about what should be done.
5.0   They are flexible enough to allow individual initiative as well as adjustments to changing circumstances. Visions shouldn’t be vague, but they shouldn’t be so specific that they kill initiative.
6.0   They are easy to explain. If you can’t explain the vision to someone in less than five minutes without hooking their interest, then the vision is unfocused or un-compelling. Go back and start again.

Tips on Creating the Vision

•    Because every group will differ, there’s more than one way to develop a Vision. Developing a good vision is tough to do well – and it will take time as those assembling the vision must think it through. It’s an exercise involving both the head and heart of the leaders who are assembling it.
•    One way, is to brainstorm the group’s key values along with the key words they associate with the “future desired place” – or their vision. A quick way is to have a single individual, write a first draft using the brainstormed data to create a ‘first cut’ or a description that captures the spirit of what was expressed.
•    These ideas should then be discussed – at length – by the group who will modify and clarify them further.
•    Don’t rush. However, a sense of urgency has value. Without it, group members won’t dedicate the time, effort, and serious thinking that creating a vision demands.
•    Getting the group to agree on a final draft will take time and won’t be easy. Using an iterative process to refine it over a period of weeks or months until a consensus forms, works well and is not a bad thing because people begin to really understand the impact of the Vision. Be prepared though, as Visions not created well are often messy, difficult, and charged with emotion.
•    There is danger if the group cuts off the process too early. There is little worse than engraving visions on plaques and walls throughout the firm – before taking sufficient time to think and discuss it in depth. A poorly developed vision can lead people in the wrong direction.
•    Another danger is not having the commitment of leaders. Without their full and visible support — instead of motivating employees, the vision can create cynicism towards the change and everyone loses.

A Vision is  not . . .

• A financial goal. “15% earnings per year share growth” for example, won’t be desirable or of interest to some, and is not feasible to others.  It offers no clue as to what action they should take to achieve it.
• A 4-inch thick notebook describing the Vision. A hundred pages of anything doesn’t motivate.
A list of vague positive values. For example, “We stand for integrity, safe products, clean environment, good employee relations, etc. etc.” Such feel-good lists will generate yawns – and won’t inspire excitement or provide a clear direction for the company.

One more time — A Vision is. . .

1)   Leader directed Wise leaders seek input of those involved in the transformation and who will be expected to support the Vision.
2)   Shared and supportedThere must be buy-in. A good vision must be easy to understand and be comfortable for leaders to communicate. To do this it must be expressed in terms people understand, are comfortable with, and with which they can align
3)   Comprehensive and detailed It must be spelled out and answer the questions: Why is it required? What will it be like? How will it work and impact us? Broad statements will not do.
4)   Positive and inspiring – Ideally it should be short, something they can relate to, and be expressed in words people understand and would use every day in conversations. This will be difficult to do unless the leaders have spent enough time with employees to understand them

Creating a vision for the future of a company is often messy, difficult, and charged with emotion. It does not need to be. Done well it can made the difference between success and failure. It is worth the effort.

Like almost all Lean tools, Visioning is recursive and can be applied to all levels in an organization with the scope adjusted appropriately for each. However, each level’s Vision must align with the overall corporate direction set by the overall leaders or owners.  This can apply in any organization. In small departments or units employees may be uncomfortable with the word Vision. Until such folks are comfortable with the full concept, referring to their vision as – their charter, objective, or ‘our reason for being’ is fine – as long as it performs the similar function of portraying a future desired state they can discuss and work toward every day.