Let’s say I asked you to take a vacation with me (assuming we knew each other first). The first question you’d ask would be, “Where are we going?”
Now, let’s apply that logic to a business setting. If you’re looking to hire me as a new employee, I want to know where your business is going.
This is where visioning comes in—and it’s exactly what it sounds like. It’s a process of envisioning what your company looks like at a certain point in the future and putting that vision down on paper. I know it sounds simplistic, but it’s really powerful stuff.
Building Consensus Around a Shared Vision
Many companies think they know where they’re going, but often times these ideas aren’t developed, shared, or communicated between partners or within the organization. To put this in perspective, I was once asked to sit in a partners’ meeting at a law firm that was struggling with growth. When I asked if the firm had a shared vision for the organization, one of the partners replied, “To make as much money as possible for all of the people in this room.” There couldn’t have been a worse response.
His response was self-serving and shortsighted. It certainly didn’t align with the firm’s mission and values, and it would have alienated the clients, employees, and communities that they’re supposed to prioritize.
Every Business Needs a Vision Statement
I first learned about visioning from Zingerman’s in Ann Arbor, Michigan, a few years ago and have been using it at Block Club ever since. Zingerman’s co-founder Ari Weinzerg lists 10 reasons why every business needs a vision statement:
- It has a positive impact on others.
- It attracts good people.
- It allows us to create reality instead of just reacting to problems.
- It’s a statement of optimism in the future.
- It forces us to act on and model the reality that there is no safe path.
- It forces us to hold ourselves accountable.
- It tells us what we aren’t going to do.
- It tells everyone what’s in it for them.
- It creates positive movement within the organization.
- It helps keep good people.
The Principles of Good Visioning
He adds that you need to follow four principles when committing to the visioning process:
- It has to be inspiring, because good people want to be a part of a great organization.
- It has to be strategically sound and achievable, although perhaps slightly a stretch, so you can feasibly get there.
- It has to be documented, so you can hold yourself accountable and have something to stick to.
- It has to be communicated, sold, and talked about, so everyone involved knows what’s in it for them.
If you’re convinced of the need for a vision for your organization, you’ve got to get started today. Rip off the Band-Aid, because the process doesn’t get any easier by waiting a week, a month or a year. Besides, the processes can be a lot of fun!
The Vision Statement Process
Start with your topic. Is it a vision for your overall organization or just a particular division or segment? Then pick your time frame. For a small to medium size organization’s vision, I prefer working on a vision statement that’s five years out. Small companies can move more quickly than large organizations, so pick a time frame that works for you. Lastly, consider all of the accomplishments that you’ll be proud of in the future so you can work those in, too.
Now you’re ready to write your first draft. Just go for it! You can do this as a team or as an individual. Review and revise and repeat until you’re happy with your vision. Share this with advisors, mentors, and people you trust to get their opinion. When it’s finished, start sharing the vision within your organization. Remember, you have to sell this to your team. You’re building alignment within your organization; you want to make a positive impact on others and keep good employees and attract good people to your team. Don’t leave anyone out of the loop. And don’t get bogged down by corporate jargon! This isn’t your brand positioning or mission; this isn’t your strategic plan; this isn’t a business plan or an employee handbook. It’s a vote of confidence in the future for the great organization you’re working to build.