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 shared vision in an organisation releases energy for cooperation towards achieving a common goal. This will help the organisation achieve its performance, service and profitability goals. People often identify more closely with their local unit than the broader organisation. They can have a local vision that supports the organisation’s vision and that the latter supports.
How to build a shared vision?
My experience has been that people share a common vision of how they would like life and work to be. They may find it quite hard to share their thoughts and feelings at this deep level. When sufficient trust is in place, they find out they want the same things. Mistrust and painful history can make building 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 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 emotions. It can make financial and spiritual sense. Creating one requires logic and imagination. All the stakeholders in the business, including customers and suppliers, will own a shared holistic vision. All will 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 approaches 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 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 whole group. Encourage the group to listen and avoid criticism. Then focus on the shared 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. You use your imaginative and logical side when you describe the picture and what it means to you. 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 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 sharing (above) are one effective method. Another is to use the “Verb/Noun” process described below.
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 of a “Verb (modifier?) Noun”. This might be “Being Professional”. They would then work together to clarify this 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 “Verb/Noun, to help them develop this. The results are often surprising. A team of production workers’ vision was simply “Everything running smoothly”. This was very supportive of their manager. This was what she was trying to achieve.
When a team has developed a common direction, they can quickly agree on the priority issues 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, how you want things to be in the future, and how to get there. You can use any of the methods above to clarify all three steps.