LEARNING & INNOVATION (May 26, 2003)
Karl Albrecht, in his book “The Northbound Train,” defines a vision statement as “an image of what the people of the enterprise aspire for it to be or become.” He notes that the key word is image. “It must be something that you can describe and that people can see in their mind’s eye. It is a mental picture of the enterprise, operating in an environment, performing to some criterion of excellence, and appreciated for what it contributes.”
These are some compelling and powerful vision statements that I gathered.
Ogilvy & Mather: To be the agency most valued by those who most value brands.
Boehringer Ingelheim: Value through innovation.
Rockwell Land, Inc.: To create quality living.
PriceSmart: To become part of our members’ quality of life.
Philippine Association of Secretaries: To inspire and equip all office professionals to attain excellence.
International Rice Research Institute: To improve the well-being of present and future generations of rice farmers and consumers, particularly those with low incomes.
Wal-Mart: We exist to provide value to our customers.
Walt Disney: To bring happiness to millions.
Johnson & Johnson: To alleviate pain and disease.
Foundation for the Rotary Soup Kitchen, Food Bank and Training Center, Inc: To make a difference in the lives of people towards self-responsibility and caring for each other.
Note that these vision statements are not simply “wordsmithing.” They create an inner sense definitely distinct from the daily routine chores of the people in these organizations. Their vision allows them to be truly alive and contributing to something bigger and nobler than their current business environment, not just for profit or salary.
The vision is “inspiring,”not vague wordy platitudes or simplistic statement of the obvious.
Consider this vision: To be able to unite in love dedicated and devoted men and women in business, in the profession and in other human endeavors to help implement and carry out the goals, projects and programs of (name of organization deleted) of feeding the hungry, of bringing hope, of reclaiming values, restoring dignity and self-image, and in lifting the spirits of the needy in this part of the world by teaching them to help themselves…and the rich to help the poor, fulfilling the adage that: if you give a man fish, he will eat for a day; if you teach him to fish, he will eat the rest of his life, thereby promoting international understanding, goodwill and cooperation, to the glory of God and service to mankind.
Hingal! Ano daw?
So what makes a vision statement meaningful and motivational? Mr. Albrecht summarizes them into three components.
1. A focused concept—something beyond platitudes; a value creation premise that people can actually picture as existing.
2. A sense of noble purpose—something that is really worth doing; something that can create value, make a contribution, make the world a better place in some way, and win people’s commitment.
3. A plausible chance of success—something that people can realistically believe to be possible and, if not perfectly attainable, at least plausible to strive for.
To add to that a vision is long-term. It is not a plan, it is the purpose for your plans. A vision endures and captures the mind, body and soul of the people affected by it and gives them a bigger reason for everything that they will think about, do, say and feel about your business.
Moreover, there are important principles to follow when you go into a visioning process.
1. Visioning must engage the emotions and must create a tension within the people crafting them. Visioning is not an exercise of the mind or a word game. It must reflect what they care and feels strongly about most.
2. The vision is created by the very people affected by it and who will, eventually, make it happen. It is not solely a management responsibility and cascaded down the line. Every stakeholder in the organization, directly or indirectly, must contribute to the creation of the vision. It must enable them to explore their potentials and focus on the future while rooted in reality. A vision is not wishful thinking or an escape mechanism. It is a desired reality; an answer to the question, “what do you want to be?”
3. All stakeholders must get involved and take an active role in crafting the vision from the first to the final step of the visioning process and its implementation; from planning, gathering, discussion and analysis of issues of your business ambitions to the finalization of the vision statement. Of course, you cannot bring everybody around the table. A carefully selected core group representing all stakeholders spanning all levels of your organization could do the task after all views and feelings are expressed.
4. The vision must be stated in the language that expresses the emotions of the people who will live it. It is best to state your vision in Filipino if your employees are Filipinos. The native language would better unleash the proper emotions and move them toward the vision. Who needs an English-perfect vision that nobody understands anyway? Likewise, who would commit to their heart a 100-words vision statement?Kahit pa siya nakaukit sa bato o nakasulat sa magandang papel at nakalagay sa isang magarang kuwadro.
5. Implement. Implement. Implement. There is a need to narrow down the vision and focus on how to implement. A vision is a compass, an indicator of direction and makes people understand the value of what they are doing. Protect it from becoming a cliché or from gathering dust in the filing cabinet.
6. The next steps are to determine the Mission, Values, Goals and Performance Measures.
World Peace. A world without a vision will soon perish. Create your own picture of the preferred future you seek to create, your image of a world at peace.
(Ms. Moje Ramos-Aquino is president of Paradigms & Paradoxes Corp, a facilitator of visioning process. She awaits your feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org.)