Last week our blog was about the need for teams to develop a mission statement. Without a mission statement, it can cause confusion and disagreements between team members. We also mentioned the mission statement should be aligned with the goals of the organization.
But before goals can be established, there needs to be an overall idea of what the organization should look like or what it should be about. Team members need a clear picture, or vision, of the future because if they don’t know what the target is, how can they establish any goals? Each member needs to have that target so they can contribute ideas that will help make it a reality.
Organizational vision is more than just a statement. I think people sometimes just develop a statement because it looks good, or it’s done by others, or it’s quicker than developing that whole picture of the future. Vision statements may be nice but they don’t give enough description about the organization and its future and rarely do people get excited about reading vision statements. That description can provide so much more of what needs to be achieved. For example, what type of culture is there? Is it one where employees participate? What do customers say about the organization? Is the organization part of the community, and, if so, how does it do it? What about products or services, what will they be and how will they be developed over time? These are just some of the things visioning can do and do more than just a statement. Once questions like that can be answered, goals can be established to achieve the vision or parts of it. They also could be roadblocks or obstacles that prevent the vision from taking place or moving forward. Goals can be established to overcome them.
One article I read about on the importance of visioning identified Disney as a company that created a vision, not just a statement. Walt Disney did a great job of developing his vision. I can remember as a child watching The Wonderful World of Disney on tv and watching Walt Disney describe the vision for Disney World in Florida. It was very exciting! I immediately started to nag my parents about going to Disney World. During the episode, Walt showed the goals or plans they were working on to build this vision. I remember one in particular was Walt marking off the land they had purchased for Disney World. If there wasn’t a vision first, how would he know how much land he needed and whatever else he needed to make Disney World in Orlando a reality?
A team can be the leader, especially a labor-management committee when it consists of both labor and management leaders on it. This works much better than having only one person, like Walt Disney, coming up with a vision. A committee or team provides more ideas and perspectives on the vision. It also means the vision can be more readily communicated to more people as leaders on a labor-management committee are usually a broad representation of the organization. It will be just as important for them to get people excited just as Walt Disney did with his vision. I don’t know if Walt involved employees or it was his vision alone but it’s so much better when more people are included. There may be some naysayers at first but the more they see the vision becoming reality, the more they’ll get on board and it will also help if they can play a role.
So how can you get started? Here are some ideas we use when we work with groups:
- Think about how long into the future you want to go. Maybe it’s a year because something needs to be done quickly, but usually it’s best to go three or five years out.
- Think about some of the areas you want to focus on. Is it about employees? What about customers or the community? Come up with about 5 or 6 questions that can help everyone to conceptualize the organization in the future. Get some flip chart paper and title the pages with the questions you come up with.
- Have everyone visualize that future time frame silently. Everybody thinks about the future on their own because everyone will have their own idea. Ask them the questions you came up with to help focus their thoughts.
- Get those flip charts with the questions posted and have the group spend a few minutes at each flip chart and jot down their ideas. Ideas from others may trigger some more ideas and those need to be written down. Some responses may be goofy but it’s okay because it could trigger a really good idea. Keep going until everybody has had time at each flip chart.
- Look over all the responses on the flip charts and organize them into some distinct themes. Discuss the themes and what the group needs to focus on in each specific area.
The next step is to develop some goals and communicate all of this as soon as possible so everyone else hears about the future! It helps also to get others involved such as with developing or working on goals.
The best leaders are those that inspire others. We live in an instantaneous world so it will be best to give regular updates so people know how things are progressing. The other thing that can happen is fatigue. People are eager to take off right away and a lot of things are done in the immediate future but as groups go farther out leaders will need to be prepared on how to keep everyone enthusiastic. Achieving a vision is not an easy task but once it has been, it’s very rewarding. It’s also something that can be done on an individual basis.
Have fun visiting the future!