Given how frequently the word finds its way into discourse in management circles, it is worth considering what vision is and where it actually comes from. What is the genesis of a vibrant and compelling sense of organizational vision?
It is not uncommon to hear people speak about creating or crafting vision. Such sentiments are not inaccurate per se, but it’s important to understand that true vision is less something that is created than it is excavated from within.
Vision is a thing the roots of which can be found in each one of us already, if we take the time to look. It is something that needs to be found rather than created, something to be articulated rather than crafted.
For some leaders, vision lies near the surface. It is apparent and relatively straightforward to identify and articulate. For others, vision lies a bit deeper and must be unearthed though a more sustained process of inquiry, introspection and discovery.
But either way, the search is a crucial step of the process and ingredient of the final product. The process of looking within, that inventory-taking of personal values, motivations and dreams, allows leaders to find what will not only inspire themselves, but others as well.
So what goes into a compelling vision? Marketplace metrics have a role, but rarely are effective organizational visions entirely or even predominantly defined by them. In a similar vein, money is indispensable to organizational functioning, but the pursuit of profit will never, by itself, create enthusiasm and commitment. Employees do not cherish dreams of growing market share or hold within their hearts aspirations of happy shareholders and smiling board members.
To capture the spirit of employees at its most vibrant and vital, then, leaders need to ask themselves not only why their organization and its products and services do exist, but why they should exist. To pull the best from their employees, they need to answer who really cares if their business exists at all, and why the world is better off with it than without it.
At its highest, vision defines an organization by the contributions it makes to society. Statements of this kind touch on issues of the personal and the human, considerations that speak to a universal longing for a better future. And it is in these terms, therefore, that leaders can most effectively articulate their organization’s most inspiring understanding of itself and its work.