Does your company or department have a compelling strategic vision? Does it actively support your ongoing development? Who owns it? How do you know?
Analyse any successful organisation to determine what makes it “good” and you are bound to find a strong sense of purpose and direction. It is widely accepted that there is a need for organisations to have a strategic vision. Every book shop will have shelves of books dedicated to the subject and yet all too often what is thought to be “strategic vision” is in reality little more than a slogan on a poster in reception or words bandied about by the Senior Management Team which means little to the workers or customers.
What is a strategic vision?
It defines your ultimate goal. What you want to achieve and how you want to achieve it. The vision should illustrate your core values and set the tone for your organisation's culture.
It is not something that can be achieved by one person or a small group in isolation, as to be effective, a strategic vision needs everyone to take ownership and subscribe to its core values.
A strategic vision should be shared by everyone within the organisation and understood by all the stakeholders. (Stakeholders include everyone who has a vested interest in your business: employees, shareholders, customers, suppliers, and affiliates.) The strategic vision should be demonstrated in everything people say and do within the company. Every transaction should exemplify the values of the organisation, whether it is a telephone call, letter, report or a face-to-face meeting.
How does having a strategic vision help make an organisation more effective?
A strategic vision acts as central support and focus, around which a detailed Action Plan should be created. The plan should encompass the “how, when, who and what” needs to be done to make the vision a reality.
Having a strategic vision which is translated into a dynamic strategy can save organisations huge amounts of money as it enables long term planning to be much more effective. Rather than being in fire fighting mode where people are constantly reacting to circumstances they feel are beyond their control, strategic vision encourages strategic thinking. This facilitates proactive behaviour and the ability to accommodate change. Forward planning could help you to reduce your material costs, accommodate the slow periods within the year and make the most of the resources at you disposal.
Creating an effective strategic vision can have huge benefits in attracting the right staff, developing people throughout the organisation and retaining the skills and knowledge of staff, saving your organisation a huge amount of money.
The cost of appointing a Senior Manager can be anything between £4000 and £10,000 per appointment. Yet despite this huge investment, there is still a high level of dissatisfaction from both the employer and the employee because there is a mismatch of expectation and reality.
If you have a clear vision you will be much more explicit about what to look for in a new employee and take into account not only their skills, knowledge, understanding, and experience but whether they will fit within your organisation and the team you have created to deliver your vision. If they are to be a successful addition to your workforce it is imperative that new employees share the same core values and principles.
An organisation with a strategic plan to develop people in-house can reduce the need for expensive recruitment campaigns and has the added advantage of motivating and retaining staff, who feel valued and have tremendous loyalty to the organisation.
Effective delegation becomes easier as individual responsibilities are clearer. It is easier to hold people accountable if there are clear, shared expectations.
How well does your strategic vision serve your organisation?
Ask yourself and the rest of your management team individually the following questions?
- What is the strategic vision of our organisation? Write it down.
- Does it serve our purpose?
- Does it capture what our organisation stands for?
- Does our strategic vision underpin our company culture?
- If your company aims to care about people, does it actually care for the staff, customers, and suppliers consistently? Or are we simply paying lip service to the words?
- What activities have we undertaken as an organisation in the last 6 months / 1 year / 2 years/ 5 years to revisit our strategic vision?
- Who was involved?
- What impact did these activities have on our organisation and on individuals within it – is the impact the same for all stakeholders?
Compare your responses – Is there a match? Together think about:
- How would a new member of staff or a customer know what the strategic vision was for your organisation if they didn’t actually have the words in front of them?
- What would the behaviours of your staff demonstrate? Is there a match between the way staff treat your customers and your vision for the service you provide?
- Think about your reward system, does it reflect your company’s core values?
Is your vision shared by all your stakeholders?
Go on a walk around your building or make some calls and ask at least five people from different sections of your company, 5 employees, 5 customers, and 5 people associated with your company either a supplier or an affiliate: What is the strategic vision for our company?
If they are able to tell you, ask them: What does it mean in real terms? What does it mean for you?
Their reaction will tell you much about the health of your strategic vision.
We all know the benefits of having a shared strategic vision are indisputable. Creating a shared vision, which is understood and owned by all those involved in any organisation takes effort but is well worth the trouble. How can you improve things?
So how can you support the creation of a more effective strategic vision within your organisation?
Each organisation will need something rather different so take the time to consider:
- What does your organisation really need?
- How do you know?
Compare your current situation with your ultimate goal.
- Start with: What is going well?
- How do we know?
Identify your strengths – celebrate, and protect them, share the best practice within your organisation. Identify your areas for development. The questions below are a good starting point.
Think of a lighthouse providing a beacon of light to keep a ship on course and safe from harm whatever the weather and state of the sea. Your vision should sustain your organisation in good times and when things get rocky or through changes of personnel. All those involved with your organisation internally and externally should know what your vision is where you are ultimately aiming for and why.
- What do you want your organisation to look like in 2 or 5 or 10 years' time?
- What are the core values you want to live by?
- What are your ultimate goals?
- How are you going to create that vision – by yourself or with others?
- What elements are negotiable and which are set in stone?
- Identify the people you need to involve to make your vision a reality.
Creating the Culture
It is important to create the right culture for your organisation. Ensure that it matches your core values. Consider the reward system you have, does it encourage collaboration for example?
Collaboration between your team rather than cut-throat competition can provide long-term benefits for your organisation and your customers. Involving the staff in the creation of a reward system can offer tremendous benefits. It is important that everyone understands what you are trying to achieve, your constraints and the opportunities. Create a culture where company success is of equal status to individual success and enjoy the huge boost to performance and morale as everyone strives to support the end goal.
Successful organisations are built on a culture of development rather than blame. Where professional honesty is encouraged and people are trained to give and receive constructive feedback professional growth and positive collaboration are maximised. People should be encouraged to evaluate their own performance and that of their team, to strive for excellence and have high expectations of themselves and others.
You and your Management Team need to show by example and be consistent in your approach.
Articulate your vision, purpose, core values to all involved - regularly, they should be an integral part of your organisation’s daily living rather than a dog- eared poster somewhere in the reception area or on your notice board.
Consider the language used throughout your company. It can support your vision and help develop the culture or be at variance with it. If people receive mixed messages they become confused and disheartened. Look at past communications within your company. Consider the language used and the tone set. Is it in line with your core values at every level of the company and in all forms of communication?
Think about the people you need to have around you to achieve your vision. Induct new and existing staff so they buy into the vision. Remember it is an ongoing process, a map for a journey rather than simply identifying the destination.
It is quite common to feel there is simply too much to do, that the work-load is unmanageable. Remember that however challenging the task may be, all journeys start with the first step.
Involving your staff from the outset can pay significant dividends. The shared talents, expertise and creativity of your workforce will provide huge added value to the process if they understand and are committed to your organisational vision. The paradox is, the better the understanding and the clearer the parameters are, the greater the freedom for people to develop and grow. It supports better delegation and a greater sharing of the workload.
Your strategic vision needs to be reviewed regularly as your position in relation to the world changes. There should be balance between solid values and principles which remain constant and your organisations ability to be flexible and change over time.
Today’s competitive corporate world is a challenging place to be. Organisations must maximise their effectiveness if they are to succeed. A shared, strategic vision provides an organisation with a solid foundation. It supports ongoing development and growth and enables organisations to cope effectively with change. How does your strategic vision measure up?