I recently read an article that said a properly crafted vision statement is at the heart of every organization. I would think most people reading this would agree that a vision is important. In fact, it’s rare to run across an organization that does not have a well-crafted vision statement. Companies have invested a countless number of hours and discussions wordsmithing their perfect vision statement.
Once the task of creating the vision is completed, what else is there to do?
Nobody Knows The Vision
As a strategy coach, I truly enjoy working with leadership teams and challenging them on their strategic process and framework. What I most often discover in the onset of working through the process is that strategic plans are plentiful, but true strategy is generally yet to be defined. This is based on my belief that strategy must define a win. Their plans have a carefully worded vision statement, a mission statement and their values. Oh, and they have more than likely gone through the traditional SWOT analysis over the years when conducting strategic planning sessions.
Coincidentally, the most interesting thing happens when I ask leaders to tell me their vision or mission. I get what appears to be a faraway look. They may even start to pull out their business plan to make sure they get it right. If leadership does not know the vision or mission statement, then the likelihood that no one in their organization knows it is even greater.
Ask your leaders right now what the vision statement or the vision for your organization is. Better yet, ask your board members or front-line staff.
What did you find out? Perhaps an even more important question to ask is, “Why did you spend significant resources on developing a vision statement and create a business plan around it when no one can even recall it, not alone act upon it?”
There should be little surprise as to why so many executives feel like their business plan doesn’t have a lot of value. Some executives would even describe it as meaningless — it just sits there for the occasional reference when someone asks, “What’s your vision?”
The Vision Does Not Define The Win Or The Aspiration
Have you ever noticed how it’s difficult to recall someone else’s words versus talking about something you really believe in? When true strategic thinking occurs, the goal isn’t creating a document or a plan with just the right words. It’s about committing to becoming the best at what you do in your market.
Like running a race or competing scholastically, we don’t train or practice to reach the middle. We want to win, be the best or beat our competitors.
Unfortunately, what I most often see is a vision statement that sounds almost identical to all the others, making it typical or average. Most organizations appear to be striving for “the middle” by focusing on a generic vision that describes what they think everyone expects. Trying to remember that type of vision is much more difficult than explaining a plan that has true meaning and clarity. When a vision describes what we feel and believe, it becomes a mindset rather than a memory. The vision, not a statement, must drive your strategic process.
Developing A Winning Mindset
For many organizations, the strategy in place takes the form of a sometimes-dusty strategic plan. It’s a plan that says all the right things but really does not say much at all about strategy. That’s not what I consider a true strategy.
Sure, these strategies have ratios and goals for growth: doing better than last year and having a set of objectives and priorities for the upcoming year. These are all great elements to have in any plan, but without a meaningful strategy, they are nothing more than sides without a main course.
I take leaders through a strategic process that helps them develop a winning mindset. So, in place of a vision statement, we develop a winning aspiration. The aspiration defines the win by clarifying how we are going to win with our customers against the competition.
With a strategic mindset comes strategic reasoning. This is what occurs when leadership is aligned with the process of creating a strategic mindset. Together, they make decisions so they can fully understand and embrace their shared vision, their shared objectives and their shared desire to be the best. When new challenges surface, or when a new competitor enters the market, leaders with a strategic mindset have much more than an outdated strategic plan to reference. Instead, they have the ability to reason and act effectively and quickly because their vision is engrained in their mind.
A winning mindset keeps your leadership current, relevant and ready-to-act every day of the year. A winning vision never rests, it’s wide-awake. It’s an active driver rather than just resting words on a piece paper.