4 Ways to Create Alignment Around a Vision

In the run up to a general election our political leaders were competing to present a vision of our country’s future that we would believe in and vote for. They faced a myriad of challenges in convincing us because we, the electorate, want to be able to trust in the picture of the future to which we would commit our precious vote.

And is it so different for leaders of organisations? Of work teams or departments? In the past 20 or so years of working to develop leaders I have seen many different visions, and encountered lots of so-called rules about what a Vision is and how to create it. I’ve seen goose-bumpy inspirational visions and pretty bland ones too. However my view is that if a Vision works for an organisation – its people and its customers – then who am I to judge?

The first purpose of a vision has to be to motivate our people to get out of bed in a morning and come to work to contribute to making it happen. Customers are unlikely to love a company unless the employees love it first. So whether we choose to make our vision a goal, a statement of intent, an operating context or a picture of a future state, here are some simple tips for making it work:

1. Long or Short?
Concise is more likely to be memorable, and employees are unlikely to be working towards something that they can’t remember. Good examples of short are:
Oxfam – “A just world without poverty”
Ikea – “To create a better every day live for the many people”

However a descriptive picture of how the organisation will be can be effective. Coca Cola divides their vision into the 5 “P”s with statements about Profit, People, their Portfolio, Partners and the Planet, and so provides a multi-layered approach to their purpose.

2. Instil Pride
Pride in the organisation and belief in the senior leadership team are two of the most significant factors in employees being engaged at work. So a vision that makes colleagues proud to contribute and clear about why will go a long way to build engagement.
Tesla – “To accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy”

3. Direction and Ambition
An effective vision will direct the activities and actions of the organisation and all its people. It should align to the values of the organisation. It should be ambitious enough to be excitin”

4. Communicate! Communicate! Communicate!
Drafting a powerful vision is a positive first step, but the vision should be communicated with passion and conviction on a regular basis. Sitting on the intranet is not an effective way to breathe life and power into a vision. For there to be belief in the vision colleagues should be able to see their leaders role modelling the vision and values every day.

5. Checklist
Ask yourself whether the Vision and our communication of it is:
Inspirational / Compelling / Memorable / Motivational / Positive Language / Clear