The day has finally come. Having barely slept the previous night, you bubble with excitement again… my wedding day! Your mind fills with the possibilities of the future: the perfect home, where you’ll go on holiday, the family you’ll raise, maybe a dog or two…
Let’s fast-forward this picture a couple of years. You might have the perfect home, the fantastic holiday destinations, two children and a dog. But the excitement you once had in your relationship is gone.
The problem is that we can get so caught up in managing the everyday life that we forget about butterfly-feelings, the hours spent chatting and dreaming together, how we worked as a team, etc.
We’re not having fun anymore.
If the two people in this relationship would regularly remind themselves of their special day, talking about how they felt about each other then and still do now, how much better would the connection be?
Sadly, most couples celebrate wedding anniversaries out of ritual or obligation instead of remembering that it is about the union of two people.
Having a vision for your business works the same way.
Vision in business
If you’ve had a business for some time, can you still remember why you first started?
If you’re unsure whether you have a clear vision or not, you can try this: take some time to imagine as clearly as possible where you want to go with your business. What do you want it to have or do?
For example, is your vision about providing a product or service that will change many lives, seeing the smiling faces of happy customers, or just making a difference?
Maybe you once had a vision but forgot about it over the years.
The importance of vision
I think there is a lot that one can say about how important vision is for business, as well as life success.
It provides an aspect of wisdom
Having a vision is probably one of the essential characteristics of wisdom in a person’s life.
‘Vision’ is not just something for your eyes, but for your mind as well.
In strategic management, there’s an aspect called ‘scenario planning’. It’s about determining possible future scenarios in the business so that you can prepare solutions ahead of time.
I’d say having clarity about your vision alongside your values will help you tremendously with this kind of foresight.
Just like a blind person wouldn’t always know to step out of the way of an approaching vehicle, a business leader without vision won’t know how to avoid disaster.
A clear vision can help you deal appropriately with obstacles because you know where you want to go. Architects design structures in the same way. They know what the plan is, and related barriers just need to be dealt with appropriately to get to how the picture looks.
Vision will ultimately affect your growth and productivity because you’re not falling around and getting stuck in a reactive mode instead of being proactive.
Just like an architect wouldn’t change his design on a whim to avoid problems, a vision statement shouldn’t just change on a whim. It should be a clear-headed decision, hopefully, accompanied by the input of others. More on this later.
Vision and purpose are closely related
In Getting Things Done, David Allen talks about always asking the ‘why’ question. Why are you doing what you’re doing?
Knowing why you are in this business and why you are taking it in the direction it’s going, is just as important as where you’re going. David says:
“In order to most productively access the conscious and unconscious resources available to you, you must have a clear picture in your mind of what success would look, sound, and feel like. Purpose and principles furnish the impetus and the monitoring, but vision provides the actual blueprint of the final result. This is the ‘what’ instead of the ‘why’. What will this project or situation really be like when it successfully appears in the world?”
I think the use of a vision statement for an organisation is misunderstood and undervalued by most people. I can’t even recall the countless times and hours I’ve spent either sitting in on or leading meetings about formulating a vision statement for a cause or organisation.
To be honest though, for a long time I too used to think that this is a useless exercise. My attitude about formulating vision statements was that we are just trying to create fancy worded one-liners to put on our documents to impress people.
Looking around, I think a lot of people may feel this way and therefore avoid the practice altogether. I’ve heard someone once calling it an outdated method, and I think I almost believed them.
For some of the people I’ve encountered in the small to the medium business world, a vision statement has been nothing more than the following: they’re either not using it because the business is not big enough, or they feel that a vision statement isn’t a priority at the moment.
My opinion about vision statements has since changed because I started to understand the importance of having a clear vision first.
So, if you look at the vision statement and you’re not reminded of the actual picture or vision in your head immediately, what you truly believe in, you might as well throw the statement away.
You can see this same concept being used since Biblical times. The Jewish people were supposed to place reminders of the scriptures and promises on their bodies to keep them focused.
A clear vision is a picture of where you want to go with the business. The vision statement serves as the beacon or is like the compass on a ship helping you stay on track.
When things get tough
Know that the vision statements may adapt and change as your vision of the business grows and develops, but it may just as well stay the same.
As I’ve previously mentioned, this shouldn’t just change on a whim whenever you feel like it, just like an aeroplane wouldn’t suddenly change its destination because of a storm. Eventually, it must end up where it was initially supposed to go.
Imagine booking a flight for Switzerland and ending up in Egypt!
The pilot should know the destination (vision) and use the navigation systems (vision statement + purpose + values + strategy) to guide the aeroplane through the storm (insert problem).
‘Vision’ is not just something for your eyes, but for your mind as well.
Why create a Vision Statement
I believe writing a statement down on paper is supposed to be an extremely encouraging exercise. It is a reminder that you’re in business – developing, learning and growing.
The vision statement should help you to respect your business. Respecting your business means keeping your focus when it’s most needed.
I’ve heard of bigger companies with many departments having their employees create a vision statement for their separate divisions. Having everyone involved in the dreaming process leads to taking responsibility and ownership.
This is not just an exercise for the top-level guys.
How to create a vision statement
It is essential that the whole team work together on this. There should be one person facilitating the process. Allocate a sizable amount of time for this exercise.
- Get words you like. Brainstorm words that are descriptive of your business motivate, values, aspirations, etc. Aim for quantity. Sometimes the real meaningful descriptions only come after a few minutes. Try to keep going for at least 20 minutes, though it could take longer depending on the creative juices. Have fun with it.
- Sort and group. You will find that a lot of the words mean the same thing. Some words have more than one meaning. This step is for finding the words you like the most.
- Narrow it down even more. Using simple numbering, prioritise the words or word groups from most to least favourite.
- Form catchy phrases. You can have fun with this one. Hand each team member a piece of paper and pen. Give them 10 to 20 minutes to write their single sentence phrase that contains all of the words they think should be included. Bigger teams can do this in subdivided groups of 3 to 5.
Some writing tips:
- Use positive words and language.
- Say what you want, not what you don’t want.
- The ideal is one sentence of no more than two lines.
- Final step: break down and recycle. Write down all of the phrases on a flipchart or whiteboard. The facilitator should read each sentence and gather inputs. Writing and rewriting will happen, maybe an expression will be better suited to one word rather than another word, etc. Eventually, a single descriptive line will be the result. Remember, it should excite you to read it and remind you of what you’re aiming to achieve.
- Optional: Revisit and revise. If you haven’t quite gotten the right phrase yet, allow everyone to have a day or two to sleep on it. Maybe you’re still putting too much pressure on yourself. Remember, you’re doing it for yourself, not the customer. It’s no use trying to impress someone when you don’t believe in it yourself.
You smile as you close your office door. Another day well spent. Who would have thought that this deal would bring the company so much closer to where you want it to go. This is going to make a real difference.
The team celebrated together earlier, and everyone is in high spirits. Excitement rises as you dream of the future. Now onto bigger things …
If you have any comments or suggestions on this post, please feel free to leave it below. I would love to hear your thoughts.
As always, live exceptionally and keep on making a difference.