In my previous post, I outlined the components of a good quality Vision, together with examples of good and not so good offerings. In this post I will explain how to create a meaningful Vision.
For a Vision to be effective, not only does it need to meet the suggested criteria listed in the previous post, it also needs to be owned by the company or departmental staff, and both understood and valued by the customer base. The following process will enable you to achieve all this.
- Brainstorm or board-blast words and short phrases that describe what your organisation or department is to be about. This activity can be undertaken both internally and with customers, although the sessions should be run separately.
- Having undertaken this with one or more groups, look at all the words and phrases you have generated. You will see some themes and overlaps. Some words will have similar meanings. Group the words and phrases together where possible – using one colour for customer comments and another colour for staff comments. This will give you an indication of which themes are numerically most important to the people you have consulted with, together with a check of the weighting from each of the two groups.
- Now prioritise your themes. Which are shared by both staff and customers? As the leader of the company or Department, which ones meet with your long term view? Which are most important to the success of your venture?
- Within each theme, is there a word that encapsulates, as far as possible, what the theme is about? If so, make a note of it. If not, is there a two-word phrase that sums it up? This step of the process is all about simplifying the theme and looking to take it forward as succinctly yet as accurately as possible. You will never fit all the comments people have made into a sentence of a few words – so you will have to be prepared to accept inclusion by implication – and this is what you should be seeking to achieve with this step.
- Put your prioritised words together in a phrase. As I have mentioned previously, the phrase needs to be memorable, and as many people as possible need to be able to understand how their contribution has helped form and been included within the sentence.
If you get to this point, well done! It isn’t easy to get to this position, and it is time consuming – but it is well worthwhile.
The last time that I undertook this process was when I was leading a large Learning and Development function within an organisation. The Vision that I settled on was “Partners in Developing Performance”. This reflected the requirement to work with other parts of the organisation in an Adult and objective manner, together with the recognition that we existed to develop people, and that our Department needed to make a positive impact on organisational performance.
I found it very helpful in articulating what we were all about, and ensuring that all our activities fitted with this Vision or value. The most pleasing impact was when one of the trainers – on his own initiative – had delegate desk name plates (i.e. a folded card where the delegate wrote their name as a part of their introduction) printed with the Vision on. Proof that it was owned and valued by staff!
Furthermore, due to its positive impact, the HR Department adopted an amended version of it – “Partners in Managing our People”– for their own use.
So if it can be so effective, why don’t more organisations and departments do it? There are many potential reasons – here are some of them:
- Looking for instant results – if that’s what you want, you probably will not invest the time in a Vision
- Bureaucratic – it can be viewed as such where people don’t understand its value
- Fear or embarrassment – it can be seen as a bit different if people haven’t been involved in such a process before
- Inadequacy – some people tell themselves that they couldn’t lead such a process. Remember, there are facilitators who would be able to assist you with the process
- Fatigue – there will be many other things on your plate, and it can be an easy one to push off the side.
But try it – clear these potential blockages and set out your Vision. Be clear on where you and your team are going.
Once you have your Vision, you can develop your Mission – which will be your over-arching objective or overall aim. This could be your objective for where you will be in 5 years’ time. You can then work backwards setting objectives as to what needs to be in place or happen to get you to that point. Your path will have clarity for your staff and stakeholders.
Which takes me back to where this all started – the writing of a Strategy. The Vision can make this easier, and in my next post I will outline a template for creating a meaningful Learning and Development Strategy.