In the wonderful book of Proverbs, King Solomon states:
“Where there is no vision, the people perish.”
Why is vision so important? Do organizations really face the threat of “perishing” or extinction if their vision statements are not spelled out clearly and openly for all stakeholders to read and understand?
According Wikipedia’s entry on Vision Statement a company vision should include the following traits: “general enough to encompass all of the organization’s interests and strategic direction:
- Challenging: not something that can be easily met and discarded
- Clear: defines a prime goal
- Concise: able to be easily remembered and repeated
- Future-oriented: describes where the company is going rather than the current state
- Inspiring: motivates employees and is something that employees view as desirable
- Stable: offers a long-term perspective and is unlikely to be impacted by market or technology changes
Any organization’s vision should be the “raison d’être” or the most important reason or purpose for someone or something’s existence just like human beings should understand why they were born and what their awesome destiny is! In his book “Delivering Results: A New Mandate for Human Resource Professionals” author David Ulrich makes this fundamental claim:
“It is more important to know who you are than where you are going, for where you are going will change as the world around you changes.”
In many ways the vision of a company is its core ideology. Leaders pass away, services or products become obsolete, market dynamics shift, new technologies disrupt the way we work, but core ideology / culture in a great organization endures as a source of guidance, inspiration and motivation. An organization’s culture or core ideology provides the glue that holds an organization together as it expands, diversifies, and develops workplace diversity. What held and still holds the Jewish people together despite the fact that they have been centuries without a homeland? The principles and core Ideology of Judaism. Core Ideology / Organization vision should be the common purpose, the enduring ideals and principles that bond the entire workforce towards a shared purpose and vision.
I love the “little weirdness” Tony Hsieh promotes in his company Zappos.com. Tony knows that the “WOW customer experience” is never terminal or achieved; it is an ongoing attempt and effort to service all stakeholders for a company that “happens” to sell shoes and handbags.
“One day, 30% of all retail transactions in the US will be online. People will buy from the company with the best service and the best selection. Zappos.com will be that online store. Our hope is that our focus on service will allow us to WOW our customers, our employees, our vendors, and our investors. We want Zappos.com to be known as a service company that happens to sell shoes, handbags, and anything and everything.”
Some of the questions leaders should ask themselves is how their organizations are being perceived by all stakeholders when management is not “in the room”. What is the press saying about their companies? Such a study could bring surprises since management and workforce/customer perceptions are often divergent as exemplified by the following slide:
Ten fundamental questions organizations should regularly ask themselves:
- What do our workers and customers say about our organization?
- What are the values our organization creates for our workforce, vendors and investors?
- What are the core values driving our company vision?
- What is the core purpose or raison d’être (reason of existence) for our organization?
- What are the values our company provides to our consumers?
- What is our company known for?
- What are the values our organizations creates in the world
- What is the renewable and sustainable contribution our organization makes to our environment?
- What is our organization perceived for: cutting edge or bleeding edge?
- What makes it peculiar to work for our organization?
The goal of making a profit does not belong to a company vision or/and its core values: Making money should be the outcome or the fruit of a company’s labor and hard work! In Part part two of this series, we will look at two main tenets of company vision: core values and core purpose.