Marc D. Braun, chief encouragement officer of Marc D. Braun, LLC and former president at Cambridge Air Systems, asked a question about vision this week: Do you create the vision first, or do you build the team and have them create the vision? The importance of vision to organizations runs the gamut from complete disregard to having one that efficiently and effectively guides the organization to its desired goal. We will look at the role of vision and consider elements to define an optimal approach to developing one.
Whether a new startup, a long-running firm, or somewhere in between, the leader must define the organization’s “Why.” If the goal is only to make money, that will not be compelling to the organization’s stakeholders. In his book Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action and TED Talk How leaders inspire action, Simon Sinek’s focus on “Why” businesses exist has been viewed more than 53 million times. His Golden Circle has an outer ring where he posits that organizations know “What” products and services they provide to customers. The middle ring is the “How,” generally known as what they offer that differs from their competition. The difference he found is that most influential leaders inspired people by effectively communicating “Why” they did the work they had chosen to accomplish. Understanding what is essential to the leader will provide direction for defining the vision.
Leadership is about setting a direction. It's about creating a vision, empowering and inspiring people to want to achieve the vision, and enabling them to do so with energy and speed through an effective strategy. In its most basic sense, leadership is about mobilizing a group of people to jump into a better future.
John P. Kotter
In his book Leading Change, John Kotter defines vision as: “a picture of the future that implies or comments on why people should work to create this future.” He describes three purposes the vision serves:
A successful company defines strategic initiatives as coordinated and targeted activities that must be designed and executed with urgency to make transformational vision achievement possible. A vision that presents a desirable and straightforward verbal picture communicates it so that employees can imagine it as feasible and desirable with a timelessness that allows for flexibility the organization will need to achieve tremendous success.
The approach I recommend is for the owner or leader of the organization to develop the initial draft of the vision. For example, the initial vision draft could ask the following questions:
A coaching plan will support the leader’s needs to begin the work next to engage the executive team in the vision development process.
The next step of the vision development process is where the leader works with the current executive team to determine the necessary improvements to prepare for the next phase:
The outcome of this process is that the leader then works with the team to refine the vision further.
Using the “Why” and resultant vision from the leader as a baseline, the entire executive team will continue to refine the content. The following questions can guide this work:
The collective insight of the executive team should improve upon the initial work of the leader to develop the baseline vision.
After the work by the executive on the vision, the recommended approach is to begin to engage the representatives of the organization’s stakeholder groups in the process. The stakeholder representatives should use the vision drafted to date as guidance for further conversation to integrate their various perspectives. Using this input, the executive team would determine any additional enhancements to the organization’s vision.
Albert Einstein stated that “no problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.” Organizations that want to attain a significant transformation in business operations need to make an essential pivot in vision development to respond to the opportunities available in their industry. Company ownership and leadership cannot use the same level of consciousness, resulting in a tweak of the vision to date. A deep dive into leading technology trends, potential market disruptions, and analysis within and across industries are necessary to author an industry-leading vision. Ultimately, an organization with an inspirational vision will attract talented people. Their potential for success is maintaining no dissent or doubt as they move through working together to achieve the desired result. The successful leader will understand that this requires a reciprocal relationship where all parties give and receive a genuine and authentic commitment to one another.
I would encourage leaders to do an internal and external examination of their organizations. Listen to the conversation between members of the various stakeholder groups. What do you hear? Are the actions taken in alignment with the vision for the organization? If so, great job. If not, revisit the current vision and determine how to bring the organization together to move toward the desired future.
My recent interactions with Marc D. Braun have assured me that the approach I am taking to author a book on transforming manufacturing aligns with the manufacturing industry’s current needs. An example is a recent conversation around his LinkedIn post. One of his comments about their vision development was, “It was an iterative approach at Cambridge Air Solutions. The Vision was GRAND but unclear before the team was formed. Then we made it clearer and clearer and attracted more and more team members to it who then made it clearer and clearer.”
Next week’s blog will be on the importance of communicating the vision to the organization’s stakeholders.
To learn more about our work or to read more blog posts, visit emmanuelstrategicsustainability.com.
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