Vision Part II
Updated: Jul 4, 2020
So, you’ve heard this all before. All the good business coaches and management books talk about how important it is to have a clear vision and a supporting strategy that everyone can rally around. I’ve been involved in many of these exercises, both as a coach and a company leader. I’ve seen that those who ‘get it’ become inspired, unstuck, and make serious progress. I’ve also seen how those who pay lip service to a company vision keep hitting the wall over and over and wonder why.
Unless you are serious about this, don’t do it. It’s worse to falsely embrace the process and not stick to it than it is to not even try. If aimlessness has been dictating your business and personal life, it’s time to stop.
Physics is not my thing, but when I was younger, sailing was. Centuries ago, Bernoulli’s Principle identified that a sailboat needs something, in addition to wind, to keep it moving in the direction it’s heading. What can do that? The keel.
Your vision document is your keel. It keeps you moving forward by harnessing and directing inputs. Without it, you alone are left to respond to the wind’s ever-changing direction.
What makes an effective vision document? Simplicity! The image below illustrates… not that. The vision exercise is about disentangling this ball of confusion, identifying what is real and true, then putting it back together in a meaningful, clarifying guide.
Life follows a pattern of continual movement from a state of order, into disorder, and then on to reorder as something new and improved. (Thank you, Richard Rohr!) The vision exercise is what moves you to the new, improved path and ends the continual zigzagging from one distraction to the next. Deconstructing what has always been done, letting go of sacred cows, and being open to possibility… these are exercises that make most people uncomfortable. The work of creating a vision document exposes false beliefs, unhealthy patterns, poor alignment, and areas of underperformance.
An authentic vision document clarifies what is real, what is true, and what works – both now and in the long term. So stick with it and work through the discomfort; your vision document will end the cycle where your business controls you.
What does a solid vision document look like? It should be short (single page) and contain the following information:
1) Core Beliefs and Values – The Who. Identify the unwavering principles that guide all aspects of your business, actions, and decisions. I like to keep these principles to a maximum of five stated beliefs/values that define who you are, what you believe, and how you do business with all stakeholders. There is no such thing as perfection, but authentic intent and constant measurement is vital. If anyone is out of alignment, correct their course and move forward.
To be effective, all stakeholders, internal and external, must know and act in accordance with the agreed-upon beliefs and values. They should be posted in as many places as it makes sense as a constant reminder of what you believe to be most important. Core beliefs and values should be the screen for HR decisions – hiring, promoting, discipline, and dismissal. Without core belief and value alignment, you will be fighting an uphill battle, get frustrated and burnt out.
2) Intention – The Why and the What. Commonly referred to as a mission/cause/purpose statement, this statement must clearly define the big-picture reason that your business exists. It provides you with focus and directional clarity. It keeps your eye on the prize and prevents you from being jerked from emerging trend to the next. Being in response mode all the time is exhausting, confusing and ineffective. You cannot do everything, you cannot be all things to all people. So, stop trying! Instead, be disciplined and follow your defined intention. (Note – This can be difficult for the entrepreneurial visionary mind to grasp)
Jim Collins, in Good to Great, defined this intention as the Hedgehog Concept. Others refer to it as your core focus, your sweet spot, or in the marketing world, as your brand promise. It looks something like this:
3) Big-Picture, Longer-Term Objective – BHAG (Big, Hairy, Audacious, Goal). Identify where you want this thing to be in 10+ years. Think only of the dream, the ideal. Be unencumbered by reality when making this objective. Your BHAG is the beacon in the distance that keeps your intended path well-lit.
We all know that regardless of our best intentions, shit happens. The big-picture, longer-term possibility is the reminder of where you want to go and forces you to return to your objective, which can be defined as a financial target or any other meaningful benchmark of what success looks like.
We know that reality never allows for a straight line from A to B. In fact, it often looks more like a spiral. Having a clear long-term objective acts like a bumper rail at the bowling alley, nudging you back onto the chosen path when you have drifted away.
As an example, your long-term objective could look like:
"In 10 years (2030) we will have 10 locations, 20% market share, and $45 million in annual sales revenue."
All your strategic priorities and action plans must be in support of realizing this dream.
4) Marketing Fundamentals. Outline your brand identity, promise, and target market. This is by no means a detailed sales, marketing, and promotions strategy. Rather, you want a simple guide to keep your marketing efforts and investment on track and in support of your stated intention and big-picture, longer-term direction.
Identify Brand Identity and Promise - Answer these questions:
•What do you do best?
•What do your guests/target market want?
•Where will you position the brand in terms of pricing?
•What is our competition not doing? List three distinctives about your business!
Define Target Market - Establish clarity on the audience for your product and/or service. Simply outline the demographic, geographic, and psychographic of your preferred clientele.
Okay, we now have an outline and some good background guidelines for building a clear, concise, and consistent vision that your team can rally around. If you do not feel you can manage the development of this one-pager, this is where a good business coach comes in to facilitate.
If you do not know where to begin, start by looking in the mirror and do an honest self-assessment. Truly knowing thyself is where it all begins!
In my next post, I’ll introduce a simple strategic plan format that will support the vision and turn it into reality. Strategy does not have to be scary.
Until next time!