One of the things I often come across as a business keynote speaker is the fact that many companies are missing a clear direction for their organization. I see it all too often. It’s a simple fact that you can’t steer a ship if you don’t know where it needs to go! This post by Kotter International Engagement Leader, and colleague, Shaun Spearmon, gives you some great tips on clearly identifying your company’s vision – the first step to change leadership!
(This content was previously published by Kotter International Engagement on Forbes.com.)
My wife and I have often observed that most of the people who select the Facebook relationship status “It’s Complicated” – well, it’s actually not. Those relationships are quite simple. The individuals involved either 1) choose to ignore or dismiss their actual relationship status or 2) label it complicated because it implies a level of depth that’s more than meets the eye. Trust me, their relationship statuses are quite simple. Yet, for some odd reason, they find comfort in “It’s Complicated.”
A cloudy or delusional view of one’s current situation (i.e. relationship status) can be quite destructive. Likewise, an organization that is dismissive and/or fails to accurately assess its current status in the marketplace is also heading down a detrimental path. For both the individual and the organization, nothing can be more damaging than a confused and cloudy picture of where they want to go or what they want to become; in short, do they know what success looks and/or feels like?
Organizations can find it tough to use words to paint a picture of success. Those that do it well devote an inordinate amount of time to getting it right. Working with my clients, it can take them hours to come up with a vision statement that amounts to 10-15 words.
They throw out hundreds of words and arrange them in dozens of different combinations. Eventually, they settle on a handful of them, arranged in the perfect order, creating a crisp message – a picture of success that is NOT complicated.
Here’s a test: stop reading right now and recite your organization’s vision. If you can’t, you are in good company – 70% of people can’t. Most people either don’t know their organization’s vision, don’t understand it, or feel so disconnected from it that they can’t explain how it relates to their day job. The good news? It doesn’t have to be that way.
I have no doubt that you work in a very sophisticated organization, with sophisticated people, who create sophisticated solutions, solving very complex problems for your customers – AWESOME. The vision for your organization need not be so sophisticated. What’s the ‘golden rule’ when crafting the vision statement? It should require effort to create, but should not require effort to understand – externally (customers) and especially internally (employees).
Here are some additional guardrails for creating a vision that meets the criteria of the golden rule:
I love Lewis Carroll’s quote, “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.” Visions are intended to clarify the pathway forward. When effective, the vision statement has an illuminating quality that allows organizations to move fast and with great precision. Simply stated: It’s NOT complicated.