Making Vision Work

In our speeches and keynotes, we often ask three questions:

1. Who believes that a clear vision, a vision that inspires, is known to everyone in the company and to which everybody can align his daily work brings a great competitive advantage to a company?

Result: approval of 100 percent.

2. Who works in a company that has such a vision?

Result: 10 – 20 percent of the hands stay up.

3. Who believes that all key colleagues and employees in his company know and understand this vision?

Result: In an audience of one hundred people, maybe one or two people will go along.

I think that’s a shame. In fact, it’s very sad. Because it implies a dark situation in more than 90 percent of all organizations: Even though a vision statement might exist, it plays no role in everyday life. In practice there is no common vision of the future. People don’t see a meaning, let alone a purpose, in what they do and why they are really coming to the office every day.

No wonder that even today the everyday life of many is still characterized by business politics, disputes over resources, conflicting goals, slow processes, bureaucratic rules and of a culture of egoisms. In such an environment, you do not even need to talk about concepts like new work, self-organization or agility.

Why do we have this situation? The knowledge of the benefits of a future-oriented and effective vision is no longer lacking today, as the answers above have shown. What is it then? For one, many so-called visions are simply not good at all. The are a collection of general statements on customer satisfaction, innovative strength, profitability and dreams of world domination.

But: A great vision has to make a difference. It must have rough edges. This is only possible through clarity, concentration and reduction – Radically! The vision must describe what really matters to you as an entrepreneur. It does not need to mention what “everybody says” or even what is “politically correct”. A vision should be attractive, should guide people. It can only do that if it sets a clear direction. It’s similar to how we are attracted to leaders: Who is fascinated by a slick, always correct type? Nobody. We are fascinated by real personalities. This is no different for companies. Successful companies have a personality. And this manifests itself in particular in their vision.

But what if you do have a great vision. And no one follows anyway?

There are many reasons why a vision can fail. But basically, when the sentences are written and images are drwan, the actual work just begins. You must spread the word. You must strengthen your personal willpower to escape the pull of the old reality and day-to-day business. The same applies to the willpower of your organization. This can be done in different ways. Now, the glamorous work on the future suddenly becomes very practical and hands on:

  1. Communication: Who knows your vision? How many have understood it. For a message to stick, it takes at least seven repetitions – if your counterpart is well-disposed. To opponents, studies say, you must communicate at least 30 times to be understood at all. How many times have you discussed your vision with your employees? When was the last time?
  2. Fixed Future Time: Simple but effective: Block fixed times when you work on your vision and strategy – and on nothing else. This can be the Friday afternoon or the Saturday morning. For some it is more effective to start every day with an “future hour”.
  3. Effective self-management: Are you in control of your time? Or are you driven by the wishes of others and by your calendar? Time is by far your most valuable resource. Use it to serve your vision.
  4. Effective team management: What is your team working on? Does it have clear goals that serve your vision? Does it have the resources it needs to be efficient? Are your people employed according to their strengths? Do they enjoy their work?
  5. Agile management: Agility is now standard in many areas. Unfortunately it’s only lip service in many cases. Avoid waste through overspecifications and unnecessary planning. But do not use agility as an excuse for a lack of leadership and focus.
  6. Mind Tickling / 43 Folders: A very simple but highly effective tool for keeping a close eye on any kind of reminder is the Tickler File, most conveniently organized as a 43-folder system. No longer having to think about the stuff that still has to be done frees the mind for the more important work. To be remind yourself of your own self-commitments at the right time increases your focus.
  7. Multiplie goal horizons: Break your vision down to multiple horizons. What do you want to achieve in seven years? this year? this quarter? this month? this week? today? (Yes, the last time horizon is one day!)
  8. Representative of the vision: Urgency beats impartance – always. What is urgent? Everything, which has two legs and walks into your office. Name a representative of your vision. Give him or her the task of reminding you when you get off the track. Choose someone with sufficient authority. So you will to listen to him.
  9. Do: Do not just make plans. Act! Right now, start by improving one of the points above and get one step closer toward an effective vision.

Have a bright future!