What is a vision?
A vision is a deeply held picture of where a person or group wants to get to in the future. When everyone in a group thoroughly understands and shares the same vision they become intensely motivated. They will apply their whole selves to achieve their vision.
Why build a vision at work?
A common vision in a company releases energy for co-operation towards the achievement of a common goal. This will help the organisation achieve its goals of performance, service and profitability. People often identify more closely with their local unit than the wider organisation. They can have a local vision that supports the organisation’s vision and that the latter supports.
How to build a common vision?
My experience so far has been that people do share a common vision of how they would like life and work to be. They find it quite hard to share their thoughts and feelings at this deep level. When sufficient trust is in place they find out that they want the same things. Mistrust and painful history can make building the required trust a slow and delicate process. It helps to do lots of listening and to avoid blaming anyone. Allow people to express what they feel and be heard then they will be more positive.
A holistic vision
The vision needs to engage the whole person if it is to be powerfully motivating. The richer it is, the more people will commit to it. Thus, a vision can use pictures and words. It can appeal to the mind and the emotions. It can make financial and spiritual sense. Creating one requires logic and imagination. All the stakeholders in the business, including customers and suppliers would own a shared holistic vision. All would say “It means so much to me to be part of this venture”.
You can use these methods and others for developing groups and individuals. You can also mix elements of the methods to suit the situation and culture.
- Pairs and share
Ask people to think about how they would like things to be in their work or life. Say to them, for example, “It is two years from now and you think to yourself, this is smashing, this is just the way I always hoped work would be. What would be happening if you felt like that?”
Ask people to take turns listening to each other as they each explore this question. Then ask each person to summarise the main points of their vision to the total group. Encourage the group to listen and avoid criticism. At the end, focus on the common vision. Set up a planning process where people work together to achieve their vision.
You can use a picture of your vision to make it concrete and attractive. When you describe the picture and what it means to you, you use your imaginative and logical side. You often get surprising insights from your own and other people’s pictures. Perhaps we edit our imagination less than our logic. The pictures create the data about how an individual wants things to be. Then share the data in the group, focus it and decide what to do. Pairs and share (above) is one good method. Another is to use the “Verb/Noun” process described below.
- Focused brainstorming
Here, you ask people to list words on a flip chart that describe what would be going on and how they would feel if everything was right. They then stand back from the list and say what these words describe. The answer is in the form “Verb (modifiers) Noun”. This might be “Being Professional”. They would then work together to clarify what this would mean in all aspects of their work. Finally, they would plan how to achieve their desired vision.
Examples of the use of vision building
In team development
Teams work better when the members feel that they are pulling together in a common direction. I have used “Focused Brainstorming”, above, to help them develop this. The results are often surprising. A team of production workers vision was simply of “Everything running smoothly”. This was very supportive to their manager. This was what she was trying to achieve.
When a team has developed a common direction, they can easily agree on the priority issues that they need to work on to achieve it.
In change management
Managing change is a three-step process. You have to be clear about how things are now, about how you want things to be in the future, and about how to get there. You can use any of the methods above to create clarity on all three steps.