Whenever I do a Vision/Strategic Planning session/workshop for my clients, I insist the owner kick off the meeting by providing the group with their Vision for the business. Whether they already have one or not doesn’t matter. The vision is the essential ingredient for any business to be able to create or refine a strategic plan. (For a very clear understanding of the entire strategic planning process and why your vision is essential to start the process read my article “Where is Your Omaha?”). Quite simply, your owner vision is as essential to creating your business’s strategic plan as the foundation is to building a house.
In many cases where the owner already has a vision for the business, I find it is either not a vision at all, or a mom and apple pie vision that has no real substance to follow or build off of. In some cases it is the core values of the owner and in others it may be the company’s mission for serving their customers or worse, all three.
I have a clear distinction between what a owner’s vision is versus the company mission. Both statements are important but clearly have very different focuses. In the end, they work together in harmony.
- The vision is inward focused. It is all about the company and the owner’s personal destination. It is what that company wants to be, and the means for the owner to fulfill their personal dream. The owner and only the owner may create and own the vision. It is not assignable because it is personal.
- The company mission is outward focused; how it plans to make its customers’ and clients‘ lives better each and every day in its own unique way; which doesn’t necessarily mean it has to be unique, but must still answer the question. The mission could and should be created as a team. Everyone in the organization owns the mission, so having a stake in its creation can help the team rally around its true meaning.
The Essence – Step 1
Your vision is the essence of what your business is going to be, not what it is today. As the owner you must think about several important and thought provoking questions before you begin writing your vision because it must provide several very serious and specific answers for your team and more importantly for yourself.
When you have it right your vision will simply answer: How good do you want to be at providing what to whom in what geographical area in what general timeframe?
- What timeframe will your vision need to be fulfilled? Three to five years is normal, sometimes longer.
- What long-term goal do you have to inspire your team?
- What is your Company about?
- Is your vision clear and inspiring?
- Is there a BHAG (Big Audacious Hairy Goal) here?
- Is your goal realistic to achieve in the timeframe you have chosen?
Reflection – Step 2
After you have written your thoughts, you need to reflect. Keep in mind most owners do not create their killer vision on the first try. It is a process that takes time and several revisions. You must take your time to get it right. So after your first try and after each revision, does your company vision answer the following:
- Does this vision have a destination (Omaha) that inspires others to follow you there?
- Does the framework create a sense of urgency?
- Is that urgency clearly stated?
- Is the product/service focus a good balance of utilizing your existing portfolio while creating an expectation that the business will look different or needs to create new products/services to get there?
- Does this vision inspire a higher level of performance than today to achieve it?
- Is the destination a BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal) that will require creativity? Or is it status quo?
- Can strategies be created from this vision? A strategy must be specific, achievable within the timeframe defined and measurable.
- Will this vision get you to where you want to go as the Owner; will you be able to reach your personal Omaha?
- Go back to Step 1 and answer the six original questions again until you are satisfied.
- Have you read and shared my Omaha article with your team? Did any discussion result?
The Statement – Step 3
The third step is sometimes the hardest part of all. That is actually how to write the vision statement… Only after you are satisfied that you have answered the six questions from Step 1 can you write an effective vision. Then write your summary statement…..in 25 words or less. The actual vision could be in detail and several pages long. But the essence should be less than 25 words. It will take several iterations before you get there, and it is fun to continue refining the answer.
I have similar exercises I do to get people in the right frame of mind for creating their missions, strategies , operating plans, tactics and success measures (KPIs). But that is for a different discussion.