The Elements of Vision

“Those who can see the invisible can do the impossible.” Frank Gaines

How true! That has been the case with every successful person and every great organization.

The success of Coca Cola, for example was due in large part to the vision of its early leaders. Robert Woodruff, president from 1923 to 1955, boldly declared during World War II, “We will see that every person in uniform gets a bottle of Coca Cola for five cents wherever he is and whatever it costs.” After the war, he said that he wanted everyone in the world to have tasted Coca Cola in his lifetime. What a vision!

Walt Disney had a vision of Disney World and Epcot that would go far beyond his original Disneyland. Unfortunately, Walt passed away before the opening of Disney World, so his widow was asked to speak at the opening ceremonies. She was introduced by a man who said, “Mrs. Disney, I just wish Walt could have seen this.” She stood up and simply said, “He did,” and sat down. Visions are powerful!

=> So What Is A Vision?

What does it look like? And what are its characteristics?

From an organizational point of view, a vision is a picture of what your organization should look like in the future. It’s what your customers, employees, owners, and important stockholders should see. They should see a future that looks significantly better than the status quo.

Unfortunately, too many visions are poorly conceived. They sound academic and sterile. They shouldn’t be. Just as one landscape painting can leave you cold, another painting of the same landscape can really touch you. A powerful vision should inspire you.

=> A Powerful Vision Appeals To Your Heart.

It appeals to your spirit, your emotion, and your intuition. A powerful vision paints a picture that is so enticing, so alluring, so exciting, vivid, real and challenging that you can almost taste it, feel it, and see it — because it’s right out there in front of you.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. had such a vision. That’s why he said, “I have a dream.” He did not say, “I have a strategic plan.”

A powerful vision is brief and catchy. In fact, it should be so easy to remember that you and your coworkers can easily recite and comfortably talk about your vision — day after day — in conversation after conversation. And that won’t happen if your vision is long, drawn-out, dry and complicated.

Your vision could be as snappy as Southwest Airlines’ vision. They simply say, “Have fun and make a profit.” Disney says, “We create happiness.” And Service Master declares “Honoring God in all we do.” Or your vision could be a bit more formal, but right to the point with something like, “We will recruit and retain the best aerospace engineers in the world — because we will become the employer of choice.” So visions are all about creating the right pictures or images.

=> And Your Vision Could Be Positive Or Negative.

A positive vision talks about what you want to get — such as getting to be number one in market share or getting a truly balanced work and family life. A negative vision talks about what you want to get rid of — such as poor morale or high job turnover.

Unfortunately, negative images are much easier to formulate than positive ones, and negative images mobilize people more rapidly than positive ones. Just look at politics. People get a lot more fired up about getting rid of crime than instilling personal responsibility. The problem is negative images and negative visions aren’t very reliable.

People think if they can just get rid of what they don’t want, they’ll get what they do want. Nothing could be further from the truth. It’s like turning on your television set. Most likely what comes on is not what you want. Of course, you can get rid of that channel, but there’s no guarantee that the next channel to appear is any more appealing.

Trying to get rid of what you don’t want may bring you something even worse. For example, in the 1920’s, our predecessors thought they could get rid of alcoholism by eliminating alcohol. They got rid of neither during Prohibition. The only thing they got was organized crime.

The most successful visions guide people TO what they want, NOT AWAY FROM what they don’t want. The most successful visions use positive images to inspire people to desert the status quo and make sacrifices in pursuit of a long-range ideal.

=> So How Do You Get A Positive Vision For Your Organization?

You do it by answering a number of questions. You assume that nothing is impossible. You use your left and right brain, your intellect and your intuition, to look for the best of all possibilities.

George Morrisey in his book, “Morrisey on Planning: A Guide to Strategic Thinking,” outlined several of those questions. I’ve added a few of my own.

I’d suggest that you write down your answers to these questions. The only rule is you can’t take your pen off the paper. You can’t stop to edit your comments or your grammar. Just let it all out. Here goes:

* Picture: What do you want your business, products, or services to look like in the future?

* Responsibility: If you were in charge, what would you do and what would you change?

* Key: What is the key to the successful future of your organization?

* Uniqueness: What unique contribution should you be making in the future?

* Excitement: What would make you excited about being a part of this organization in the future?

* Values: What values need to be stressed?

* Competency: What should be your core competencies?

* Opportunity: What is your greatest opportunity for growth?

* Position: What should be your position with regard to customers, markets, profitability, growth, technology, quality, and employees?

Your answers to those questions will get you ready for writing out your vision.

Action:  Research is clear. The most successful people have positive visions for their lives, their careers, and their families. And the most successful organizations have positive visions for their future. Pick one of those areas today, and begin to answer the questions listed above. The very act of thinking and writing will clarify your true desires and motivate to move in that direction.