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Saturday, November 1, 2014

How to establish a vision for organizational success

By Calvin Swartz

Vision by EladeManu
Business vision sees opportunity ahead of the curve
Perhaps you have come up through the ranks of your organization, or you’ve branched out to pursue your own endeavor, and now find yourself in the position of leader. Your time has gone toward managing your day-to-day responsibilities and meeting your milestones and deadlines. If so, you probably haven’t spent a lot of time thinking about vision.

Or maybe you’ve had just the shell of an idea for your business or a dream in the back of your mind. Now you’re in charge and your people are looking to you for direction to move forward. How do you begin?

Formulating a vision

No organization can exist without a vision to the future. Your vision doesn’t have to be fully detailed or described with flowery verbiage. It’s not an objective or an outcome. It's a clear view toward the future, an imagined state of being for your organization that, even as you are formulating the words to describe it, should already be in the process of evolving.

An organizational vision is: “An ambitious view of the future that everyone in the organization can believe in, one that can be realistically achieved, yet offers a future that is better in important ways than what now exists.” (Source:  BIA)

Vision essentials

Establishing a vision to the future requires some time and a great deal of thought, introspection, and creativity.  You'll have to analyze how to make best use of your available resources and figure out how to obtain those you lack.

Sit down and think it through. Ask yourself:  Where would I like to see this organization be in the next three, five, ten years? 

Formulate a roughly-defined answer to the question so you can begin to assemble a course of action. Your answer will help you make the decisions and delegate the responsibilities that will set the organization on a definitive path.

Look inside yourself and draw from your own passion for the work you are doing because, lacking passion, your vision will struggle to be realized. Use your creativity and look to other sources for ideas – not for ideas to copy, but for viable concepts or approaches on which you can put your own spin. 

Shine a light

West of Ireland by Niall
Vision creates a path for others to follow
Your vision should light the path, like a road moving toward a vanishing point, for the people in your organization to follow. Your vision should illuminate, not confuse.

The people working toward that vision should clearly see the direction and understand how to get there. You should all be walking the same path, moving toward the same source of light.

But that light has to keep moving orward. Visioning is not a destination -- it’s a journey. 

A vision expresses emotion

Your vision should be an expression of the passion you and, hopefully, the members of your organization feel for the work you are doing. If you don’t have passion, your outreach will seem empty. Your staff will lose momentum and stop caring about the work. The customers you serve will feel disconnected or even neglected and move on.

Be sure not to confuse vision with mission. Watch this Mind Tools video and learn the difference between mission and vision statements.

People want to do business with people, not organizations. They want to see your vision as clearly as you do. They become fans who follow and spread the word about you when they can get caught up and carried along by your excitement.

A vision is intangible

Hand by Andreas Lever
Vision adapts to a changing market
Creating a vision can be challenging because it’s not a thing that you can see or touch. You are shaping and molding an idea. A vision is organic – living and growing – yet intangible, incorporating the aesthetics, the hopes, and dreams you have for the organization and its ongoing impact in your world. Your challenge is to figure out how to capture that intangible dream in a message that others can understand, believe in, and support.

Visioning invites buy-in

An important strategy for building support for your vision is to seek input from your people. Allow them to be a part of the vision development process. Listen to their ideas, seek the merit in each, and find ways to incorporate them into your vision. With that, you’ll achieve their buy-in. Your people will support what they helped to create. It’s called “pride of ownership.”

Visioning is an ongoing process

Finally, remember that creating a vision for your organization is a dynamic and changing process, not an objective. Remember that vision is not a destination at which you arrive or an objective you achieve but a continuously evolving progression. “Any vision that stays the same for a decade fails as a vision.” (Source: Fast Company) Your vision should always be growing and reaching out toward the next level of success.

Continue to constantly monitor and analyze changing economic conditions, changing demographics, changing trends and interests, and changing staff and resources, so that your vision toward the future remains an informed and creative guide that leads the way forward.
About the author: Calvin Swartz is President and Founder of Progressive Success Corporation, a management consultancy specializing in executive leadership coaching and training. Reach out to Cal at askcal@cox.net or @AskCalS on Twitter.

Images: 1. EladeManu, "Vision", CC BY 2.0;  2. Niall "Sunrise West of Ireland, CC BY 2.0    3. Andreas Levers "Hand", CC BY 2.0  4. Author owned and licensed