Vision: A Guide for the Future

A vision statement can be defined as, “An aspirational description of what an organization would like to achieve or accomplish in the mid-term or long-term future. It is intended to serve as a clear guide for choosing current and future courses of action” (businessdictionary.com). Vision has to do with leaders and organizations’ ability to see what they want to accomplish. It is like building a house: the house plan and a drawing of the house show what the finished product will look like. When the house is completed, it is expected that it will look essentially like the plan and the drawing. There may be cosmetic changes, but there will be no major differences.

There can be no ambiguity about the vision. Too many leaders have fuzzy vision, but obscurity in the vision will not encourage and mobilize others. A vision is not something abstract: it is a clear picture of what the organization can realistically accomplish. When explaining the vision, leaders must word the vision in simple terms. It is not a theological treatise or an academic paper. What are we looking to Vision 20 achieve? By the time we’re finished explaining, everyone should be able to see where we are going. To that end, leaders must solicit questions. In casting the vision, we will not communicate all the details (that’s a matter of strategic planning), but by responding to questions we ensure that people truly understand what we are aiming for.

Purpose is the why; vision is the what; goal is the how. As we continue to communicate the vision, we will address these three areas. Purpose is important: we have to know why we’re doing what we’re doing, or else vision is an exercise in futility. Goals are the intentional steps that we have to take to realize the vision. Without such steps, vision is simply a dream, an ethereal idea that dissipates when we wake up to reality.

In order to communicate the vision we have to thoroughly think it out. Good ideas don’t become vision until we submit to this process. There are many things that we have to think about. We need to determine what resources are needed and whether we can access those resources. We have to think about the end result or results. We have to think about sustainability and continuity, unless the vision is simply for a onetime event. We have to think about the potential benefits and weigh them against the disadvantages. We must also consider the time frame. When we communicate the vision to others, they may be involved in the thinking process, but they also want to know that we have thought things through. It is first our vision before it becomes theirs.

If the vision is somewhat new to the organization, our core leaders can assess the clarity of the vision. It is a mistake to share the vision with our subordinates before sharing it with our fellow leaders. Some leaders in their zeal bypass their leadership team and tell the world what they intend to do. This can foster serious fallout and is premature. Our core leaders can help us in drafting the vision, reworking and refining it, until it is fully mature and ready to be presented to the rest of the organization.

Leaders must be creative in communicating the vision. Presenting the vision in the same way can bore people. Contemporary society, for good or for bad, is accustomed to many types of media: different styles appeal to different people. Additionally, the leader doesn’t have to be the only one who communicates the vision – main influencers can also share the vision. This allows influencers to take ownership of the vision, and it also allows the leaders to work through others, since no one leader can connect with everyone. Creativity involves knowing the people in your organization and what appeals to them.

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