Vision Statement Challenges

“Vision is the art of seeing what is invisible.”

Unknown

Almost every day, I am either talking about or mentally reconsidering the effectiveness of current vision statements or why there is a lack of statements. Typical discussion and/or thinking involves the use, misuse, and impact of mission and vision statements. 

Many times I have conversations with many of my colleagues and create very informative information. 

Here is a typical discussion with a couple of colleagues.

DENIS: I reviewed our current activity and realized we don’t have a written vision statement, so how do we know what we want or need to accomplish?

My bias is that we must create a vision statement to drive our plans and create a program. I see this as a critical piece in organizational success. 

More to the point, if a company does not have a written vision, then leadership needs to embed them deeply into the head and heart of the workforce. And, if they are not authentic and driven statements, then it’s pointless anyway.

BOB: I would agree with many of your points. The fact that it is what the company “does” with its statements is what is essential. In most cases, these statements have been neglected. 

JOHN: I agree that companies can spend too much time on massaging vision statements.

But I also think many organizations spend too little time on them as well. There must be a balance. When properly created, formed, communicated, and used, these statements provide a great deal of agenda harmony, synergy into the organization, clarity of priority in budgeting, effectiveness inaccurate staffing, and many other things.

Most importantly, it removes the fuzziness in the people’s minds and where the company is directed. If a statement is made well, the statement will identify gaps, relational deficiencies and will create energy, commitment, optimism and makes strategic planning more robust.

Of course, these statements can’t do anything; it’s all in the way they are integrated into the organizational system. The truth be told, though, most organizations already operate from a vision, but it’s usually informal and imprecise and carried out by a few influential leaders in the company.

A couple of questions to ask when interviewing for a job or if you are new to a company is;

  • If your company was at its very best, what would this look like? 
  • Where would people spend their time and resources to meet expectations?

These don’t directly address the vision. Because, If you ask, “what is your vision?” most people will recite what they read or may look confused. When asked subject-oriented questions, however, a picture emerges.

DENIS: Excellent points, everyone. I am a big fan of vision statements, IF they are fully communicated to the entire organization and the leadership is committed to fulfilling the stated vision. I agree with everything said.

  • vision statements help visualize the desired future
  • create a metric process for attaining identified goals
  • get buy-in and commitment from the workers and leaders

However, I have seen them generate little use in most areas, despite pleas and pushing from the leaders. 

Without a mission statement, you may get to the top of the ladder and then realize it was leaning against the wrong building.”

DAVE RAMSEY

To ensure we are moving in the right direction, we should have two types of statements.

  1. Vision statements are related to a specific project or position (think building program, launching a new safety campaign, or introducing new items to sale). They are needed, but they should be more flexible, temporal, and more quickly created.
  2. Mission statements are different. They deal with unchangeable values. 

Have one mission statement that defines your values and desires outcomes. Then, create multiple vision statements as time and projects dictate.

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