The Visioning Process - do you know where you're going to?
The creation of your business may have been down to many factors – timing, a brilliant innovative idea, discovering a gap in the market, an invention – however, whatever it was, to bring your business to life and ensure its longevity, then knowing where your business is heading and having a vision, which you can ‘share’ with employees, investors and customers – is an all important, yet often overlooked, part of the business planning process.
The Visioning Process is really the critical starting point – if you’ve clearly set out a vision for where your business is heading, you have something that you can live by – and any other stakeholders, can easily understand. After all, if you have everyone associated with your business singing from the same hymn sheet – all clearly focused on the direction of the business – then you are ahead of the game in getting there…
Visioning isn’t simply about creating an inspirational ‘tag line’ such as ‘Be the best’ – it’s about the processes which are implemented and the values that underpin what ‘being the best’ means.
I recently read a case study about the vision at Motorola – their vision is very simply ‘wireless’ - simple, yet hugely ambitious. 3M focuses on ‘solving unsolved problems’. These statements are simple enough to be shared by all team – and they are clear in saying what the companies should not be doing. Try showing up at Motorola with a wire and see what happens!
Visioning is an important strategic process – which whilst may take a bit of time to implement, is certainly worth doing – to ensure that you are 100% clear on where you are heading.
There’s a great saying; “People who set out without a target hit it 100% of the time!” – so let’s take a look at the Visioning Process – to ensure that you have a Vision to live by…
Step 1: Where are you now?
1. Do you have a vision?
2. Could you write a brief statement of your own vision?
3. Do you or your team have a mission of purpose statement? (Do they know what the business is focused on?)
4. Do you have a unique competence? (And unique is the word here).
5. What strengths, weaknesses, and areas of special skill do you or your team bring to the business?
6. What is the scope of your business? (Current products, services, markets and customers).
7. From number 6 above, can you identify what will be expanded or dropped in the future?
8. What distinguishes your business or products/services you provide.
Going through the ‘Where are you now’ questions helps you to consider a framework for your Vision.
Step 2: Preparing for Change
You’re now into the design phase of your Vision. You’ve probed and asked questions of yourself and your business – and now you need to create a vision which is clear and focused. So some more areas to consider helping you drill down into your focus:
1. What is the direction of your future?
2. What future range of responsibilities, skills and new or expanded services will you consider?
3. How will the current and future ranges of skills or products differ?
4. What key capabilities and resources will you need to succeed?
5. How will your vision impact your businesses growth?
6. If you could create the future, what future would you create for yourself?
7. How many categories of future development can you identify that will impact your vision?
8. Can you make a list of expectations for each of those categories of future development?
9. Can you prioritise that list of expectations for each of those categories that would have the greatest impact on your vision?
Step 3: Pulling together your Vision
With all the ‘background’ analysis undertaken – you are now in the position of putting your vision together. This is the combination of your intuition, personal vision, experience, judgement, information, values and culture.
Of course, your vision has to be shared with those associated with your business. Therefore, the vision must be distinctive and establish standards that employees and partners find necessary to follow. Doing this is no easy task – but the steps below provide a useful model for ensuring you have considered all areas:
- Review all the information and materials you have compiled. This information is valuable and insightful – however, don’t ignore ideas you may be avoiding – consider all possibilities.
- Consider all your driving forces:
- Products or services offered
- Markets served
- Low cost production, capability, capacity
- Marketing/sales methods
- Method of distribution
- Natural resources
- Prioritise the key elements within your vision. In your view are your strengths, driving force and culture and values consistent? Is consistency important – or is change a higher priority?
- Having prioritised, and satisfied yourself that this is the vision you really want, you are now ready to create your vision focus. By this stage, you should be able to put it into a really short, easily understandable statement that focuses and reflects:
- An exciting future
- The creation of value for you and your team
- Standards of excellent and reflect high ideals, standards and uniqueness to everyone that you and your team interact with
- Clear criteria for decision making and evaluation
- Enthusiasm and commitment
Step 5: Cementing your thinking
You’ve gone through the information gathering and analysis process – and created your vision for a new direction. And so at this point – it’s a time for reflection:
- Is this the best vision?
- What are the chances for its success?
- If it fails, what can I salvage?
- Should we even try?
Whilst these questions may seem hard-going – it’s important to ask yourself these questions in order to remove any doubts that your vision inspires commitment and enthusiasm. Do YOU really believe in it? It is right for everyone who will interact with it, will it lead to business success and improved performance?
Doubt and uncertainty are inevitable when considering a new direction – so resolve this doubt by asking the following:
- Does everyone clearly understand the vision?
- How does the current situation compare with the new vision?
- How will the vision affect the business and team?
- What changes, if any, will be required to make the transition to the new vision?
- Will your new vision require new or additional resources, technology, skills?
- Have you set a timeframe – it is realistic?
And of course, if you are not wholly confident of your Vision – test it – get a small group of people you trust to be honest to act as a sounding board.
Step 6: Implementing your Vision
Of course, your Vision Statement is nothing more than words until it is put into action. Whilst the words are important – it’s implementation that changes your business direction. So many times, time is given to an important strategic process – be it, business planning, strategic planning, marketing planning etc – and yet the all important implementation – the getting on and doing it, just doesn’t happen. It starts – but then fizzles out… loses energy.
There used to be a ‘mantra’ – lead by example. And indeed – for any change of Vision and business direction to happen, you have got to ‘live’ it. And I suppose this is where passion comes into it – because if you are truly passionate about something – then you are more likely to pursue it than let is ‘fizzle out’.
In the important ‘Futuristic’ business book – Funky Business (written some 10 years ago I must add, but still highly relevant) – they cite examples of organisational vision being driven top down – such as: the multi-billionaire founder of Ikea still travels economy and stays is ‘value’ hotels, rather than 1st class and 5 star – as some may expect. Is it okay for senior management to travel first class when those not part of that tranche are tasked with saving money on paperclips? Over to you… But at Ikea – the founder is living the vision.
To put the new vision into action you need to:
- Demonstrate a personal commitment to the vision. You are the direction setter, the change agent and even coach. You are the visionary leader – and therefore, you must consistently apply the vision to all your actions and decisions.
- Commit to communicating the significance of the vision to everyone. Your team need to know that your vision is working – and know that your commitment is true. It’s important to regularly communicate and demonstrate how the vision is impacting the business.
- You are the primary communicator of the vision. Beware! It is doomed if your actions and words fail to reinforce it.
Step 7: Keeping your vision alive!
There are no set rules as to when to re-evaluate a vision – but 6 monthly reviews are probably sensible. Of course, by definition, all visions are always ‘just beyond reach’ – and therefore, you need to be assessing that this is the case – refining and revising in line with ongoing environmental changes. Remember, your vision needs to be keeping ahead of the rapidly changing times and technology – so reaffirmation and support for the vision are crucial.
Clearly, a vision statement is far more than a ‘paragraph’ – it’s the starting point for quality management and continual improvement. It captures as ideal, unique and attractive image of your future and answers the question, “What do I want to create”.
For more information about the Visioning Process – Building a Shared Vision, by C Patrick Lewis is a great resource. Many of the stages of the visioning process included within this article are gleaned from his book, which provides a practical framework for effective vision creation.
Michelle Carvill is owner and Marketing Director at Carvill Creative - a graphic design and marketing services agency based in Maidenhead, Berkshire. The agency covers all aspects of graphic design and marketing - covering social media marketing and website planning and website design.