Does your team know where you are taking them?
You may be the most thoughtful, intelligent, and empathetic leader on the plant, but a team of well led employees with no destination is merely a waste of good talent.
So the bigger question becomes, do you know where you are going?
This is where vision comes into play.
Before your next board meeting, leadership meeting, management meeting, or staff meeting ask yourself…
Where do I want to take the company?
While this seems so obvious, I have spoken to an unbelievable number of CEO’s, President’s, and other top executives whom couldn’t answer this question. Further these highly successful and intelligent individuals often couldn’t put together a complete thought when asked to explain their vision.
Today Trumps All…
No it doesn’t, but sometimes it feels that way. While it is often ideal for a top executive to have the time and fortitude to be left silent with their thoughts where they can dream up and plan the next great path for their organization, it often comes down to merely trying to make it through the day, week, month, and if you’re lucky year.
This has become especially true during the recession that the world has faced over the past few years.
During the boom economy, mediocre ideas could be executed even with little or no vision.
Now even a good idea needs tremendous leadership, management, and vision to be achieved. Further, a mediocre business has almost no chance without such guidance.
Nevertheless, the short term requirements that leaders have may serve as an excuse for the absence of vision. However, an excuse is just that and the time must be made.
More On Why…
A business can work without vision. It actually can. In fact, all those executives I spoke to ran companies that were having some level of success. Even if success was defined by survival.
However, companies that lack vision will never have the intangibles that I believe are required to take the leap forward that few ever achieve.
It comes down to culture. A strong company culture can help a company get through the most turbulent conditions while a weak one can steer a company with a seemingly good product, service, or idea straight toward the giant iceberg.
The thing about culture is that it is almost always built around a vision that the masses buy into. That is why the great leaders chalked full of all the right characteristics cannot create a culture if it lacks vision. If all of the other pieces are in fact there, then vision becomes a key component and the sale should be then be easy(er).
The First Step…
So we all know we need a vision, but where do we begin?
How about with the end? Stephen Covey included this within his Seven Habits, but it is incredibly practical to think about where you ultimately want to end up.
The caveat here is that ideally a business is built as a going concern so the end may be more infinite. Nevertheless we certainly are not.
Back to the first step, to begin we must figure out what it is we ultimately want to accomplish. Basically all of the work thus far will be coupled with ??? to accomplish ???
A vision doesn’t have to be grandiose, but it should be compelling and it MUST be realistic.
This site has some good examples of Vision Statements that may be worth looking at.
Once you have a vision, 2 things become key to ultimately achieving the vision.
First, the vision must be not only clearly understood by you. It must also transcend the organization to your leader, managers, and rank and file. A vision that is only understood by the top will never become internalized by the team.
Second, as much as the mission is supposed to guide decisions, the vision should really be integrated into that same mind set. With every idea, process, and procedure implemented it must be asked how this helps the company achieve its vision.
Then, everything builds from there. A clearly understood vision allows the company to work on its plan with much less ambiguity.
The Rest Of The Plan.
When doing strategic planning I recommend the following to coincide after the vision has been created.
- Mission Alignment: Now that the vision has been clearly defined/refined we must make sure that the company Mission still makes sense. It must align with the vision and answer the question “Why Are We In Business.”
- Long Range Planning (LRP): I also refer to this as 1,3,5 planning. Setting the targets for the company’s next 1-5 years with specific goals that align to the vision and mission of the organization.
- Short Range Planning (SRP): This is the critical “What are we doing THIS year planning.” What do we want to accomplish before we close the books for this fiscal.
- Immediate Goals: The immediate goals take the SRP and LRP and break them down into bite size goals that can be delegated appropriately throughout the organization.
- Accountability/Measurement: It is absolutely imperative that every goal has clearly spelled out accountability and measurement. Who is responsible for it, when will it be done, how will we know? Without this, it is almost impossible to properly manage corporate strategy.
The above is a very basic starting point for planning and execution. I always recommend a company experiment to find exactly what works for them. But the premise doesn’t change. A company must know where it ultimately wants to go if they are going to have any success figuring out where they are going in the short term.