I saw something in passing the other day as I was catching up on my marketing reading. It was an article about how companies should not actually establish a vision before beginning to strategize. This concept made me drop my jaw a little, so I read on.
Why would a company NOT want to have a vision? The article claimed that a vision statement can reduce creative thinking, especially among the leaders of the business. Anything that doesn’t adhere to the vision gets swept under the bed for later. The vision, according to this line of thinking, becomes all-encompassing, and nothing else matters.
As you might be able to garner from the title of this post, I do not really agree with this line of thinking whatsoever.
A vision is a map
When you go on a driving vacation, you’d assume you have some kind of map, whether it’s one of those printed maps that are so hard to fold properly, or the Google maps app, or some other sort of direction-giver. The map gives you details on how you can get from point A to point B. It shows you the major highways, and if you work with AAA or another travel agency, you may even see a specific recommended route to take.
As we all know, of course, when we are on a driving vacation we make stops that are not included on the map. We make stops for lunch, we make pit stops, and depending on where you’re driving, you might even pull over and make a stop to take a scenic photograph. You might see a historical or other marker and decide to go off the path and explore.
This is how a vision can (and I would say should) work for a business. A vision is not something that should bind you and your company. It should not handcuff you. Quite the contract, in fact. A vision can get you from where you are now to where you want to go. It can make you ask questions of your company like “Where do we want to be in five years?” It can help you prioritize your work on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis, even.
Visions and Leaders
When you are on a driving vacation, you are at the mercy of whomever is driving. The same holds true if your NPO has a leader and a vision. On a vacation, the driver of the car can decide to be dictatorial and not stop if it was not in the plans, or the driver can be a little too loose and stop at every possible distraction. The same holds true for a leader of a cause. The leadership (and if that’s you, pay attention) determines how the NPO will pursue those objectives incorporated in the vision statement.
How flexible will your vision be? Will you let it bend and evolve, or will you consider it written in stone? Will you allow people to add or subtract from the vision or will you fail to adapt to changing situations? I would go so far as to say that a vision does not handcuff a leader, but a leader can handcuff the organization with a vision if he or she is not careful.
It’s a new year. If your cause does not have a vision for the future, what’s holding you back? If you are worried that the vision itself might limit you, take a step back, and make a plan that will help guide everyone in how to turn that vision into a reality.
What say you?