Blog Post

Your vision is your destination. Can you see the future?

One of the most important roles of the business owner, or senior leader, is setting the direction of the organization.  If you don’t know where you’re going, how do you move forward? 

A vision statement is a concrete way to understand what your organization is trying to achieve and ground your strategic plan so you can focus your time, energy and resources on what will get you there, not get sidetracked by the many distractions that will show up!

Unlike a mission or purpose statement, which says why you exist and what you do, your vision statement describes your goals for the future and the long-term results of your organization’s efforts.  It should:

  • feel somewhat lofty;
  • be future based;
  • inspire your stakeholders; and,
  • provide parameters to what you consider as opportunities.

With a clear vision statement in place you can then structure your strategic plan to achieve that vision and engage your stakeholders in the inspiring vision of the future you are creating.  The elements of your strategic plan are essentially the roadmap to achieve your vision, so having a clear vision in the first place is key!

So how do you develop a vision statement?

  1. Get set up

Firstly, who do you want to be involved and what time frame are you’re looking at?  There are strategic planning frameworks that suggest visions as BHAGS (big, hairy, audacious goals) and set a 25-year time frame.  For many of us, 25 years can feel a long way out, so it’s not unusual to pick something in the three-to-5-year range.    Think about whose perspective would help you to develop your plan.  Getting insights and inputs from key stakeholders, suppliers, clients and employees can help you shape a compelling vision of the future that works. 

  1. Start generating ideas

For a vision, we care about impact.  A bakery makes bread, but the impact of the bakery is more than just the product it produces.  When we are establishing vision, it’s the impact we focus on. Maybe the bakery is keeping traditions alive,  or maybe they are focused on the customers’ enjoyment.  Those are things that will shape how the organization needs to operate beyond the nuts and bolts of the product or service.  Think about the impact of your organization, not simply the product or service.  What difference does your organization make? 

Now, fast forward.  What impact will you have in the future?  Don’t be afraid to dream big.     You can try building a vision board: put up pictures, quotes, thoughts, and comments on the future and see what emerges.  Or try a future thinking exercise.  Imagine you are 5 years in the future—what is a day in the organization like?  What newspaper article was just written about your success and why?   The trick is to get your ideas flowing!

  1. Quantify success

Just because we are looking forward doesn’t mean we don’t have definition.  Visions need some quantifiable element.  How can you quantify your vision?  Maybe by size of audience (all businesses in NL for example), or number of units sold.   How can you quantify the impact you have defined?

  1. Make it memorable

You really want your vision to be 2 sentences or less.  If it’s not memorable, it won’t stick.   Use the present tense and ditch the jargon.. words  like ‘maximize shareholder return’ don’t really tell us much and rarely speak to the heart!   To inspire we use language we can connect to.  

If the shortened version of a couple of sentences doesn’t encapsulate every element of the future you discussed, that’s okay, but it should be unique to you, remind you of the future you’re aiming for, and excite you.

  1. Keep it alive

There is no point crafting an inspiring vision, only to put it in a drawer and never look at it.  The acid test is ‘do you use it?’  If you don’t find yourself spontaneously referring to it, it’s not the right statement.   Don’t be afraid to evolve it as your business evolves, and as you see which elements have stuck and which haven’t.

Your vision should be your glowing beacon guiding you forward.  Don’t skip spending time on visioning, and don’t be afraid to dream big, and then build your strategy to get there.

We’ve helped many organizations determine their mission, vision, values, and strategic plan.  We also run a strategic planning program called Align, aimed at small businesses that want a practical strategic plan.   Think we can help you? Get in touch 


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