Developing a vision for your organisation can feel like an overwhelming task, involving complex introspection and requiring the distilling of the micro day-to-day tasks into a macro, overarching purpose. In this article we aim to demystify the process by working through the primary steps of developing an organisational vision.
- Identify your organisation’s values
The first step is to identify your organisation’s values – these can be both the values that already inform the core ideology and those that you want to inform your ideology, i.e. both real and aspirational values. Greg Satell wrote for Forbes on the importance of ensuring your vision recognises the cost of values. “In workshops with executive boards, I often ask what the company’s values are. Invariably, I get a list of things like, “excellence,” “serving customers” and “innovation.” Then I ask a follow up question, “What do these values cost you?” Usually, all I get is blank stares. Make no mistake, values cost something. For example, both Nucor and Southwest show that they value employees by pledging never to do layoffs and both companies have paid a price for that policy. In the decades they have been in operation, there have been times when there was a strong business case for letting some people go. But they didn’t.” Your vision will need to acknowledge that if there isn’t a cost to upholding values then they aren’t worth considering core values.
- Identify purpose
Articulate what the purpose of the organisation is. It may be a number of things. Consider sustainability (both financial and environmental), reputation, service/product quality, growth etc.
- Identify past positive achievements
Make a list of the successes your organisation has had in the past. What made these successes? Use this information to inform the vision going forward.
- Get advice
When you solicit advice from others depends on the scale and the type of the organisation, as well as where the organisation is at in its development. If the organisation is already established, with employees, structures and policies in place, input from others should be happening right from the start. In order to bring others along with the vision, its development needs to have been communal. However, if the organisation is still largely an undeveloped project in its infancy, others’ advice can come later, when the parametres of what you want to achieve are already clear in your own mind.
- Have a vision for one year, five years and ten years
Although an organisational vision should remain largely static, there should nonetheless be differences between the vision for one year, five years and ten years. Make sure you develop distinct visions for each of these time periods, even if the core goals remain largely the same.
- Draft and re-draft
Do not try to develop a vision in one go. Instead, create a draft, share it with others and then return to it. This will allow the ideas to percolate and settle.