What is an Organizational Vision? *

In the words of George Ambler, “A vision is a much broader concept than the stodgy vision statements one tends to find on the walls of some corporate head office…The problem with these one liner vision statements is that they fail to fulfill the purpose of a vision, which is to provide direction. It’s not enough to say “climb the mountain” people need to understand which mountain and why the mountain is worth climbing?”

Elements of an Effective Vision: *

  1. Future Focused: An effective vision answers the question “what will our business look like in 5 to 10 years time?”  It describes the organization’s desired future.
  2. Directional: An effective vision provides direction and makes clear where the organization is going. This means that a vision needs to be specific enough to shape decision making and appropriately broad to allow innovative strategies for realizing the vision.
  3. Clear: Vision that is clear enables effective allocation of scare resources. Clarity allows individuals across the organization to have a shared sense of what’s important and what’s not, to ensure that they are free to act within those constraints.
  4. Relevant: An effective vision is grounded in and an extension of the organization’s past. Visions don’t exists in a vacuum. They exist within the current reality and talk to the context in which the organization exists.
  5. Purpose-Driven: An effective vision provides a larger sense of purpose for the organisation and it’s people. That purpose must be more meaningful than getting bigger or beating the competition. Purpose is about why we exist and why anyone should care. Vision connects people to a meaningful purpose, allowing them to feel that they are part of something bigger than themselves.
  6. Values Based: An effective vision connects people to the organization’s core values. Values are the beliefs or ideals that the organisation shares about what’s good or bad.
  7. Challenging: An effective vision challenges us, it’s an invitation to greatness. A vision is a goal that should challenge us, stretch us and set a high standard for the organisation. Effective visions represent a future that is beyond what is possible today or what we think possible tomorrow.
  8. Unique: An effective vision reflects what’s unique about the organization, what makes it different. A vision is unique when it declares what makes the organization stand out and why it matters. Vision must make clear the activities that the organization will and will not pursue, the capabilities to be developed, and the market position it will occupy.
  9. Vivid: An effective vision provides a vivid mental image of what the organization will be like in the future. Well crafted visions describe the future in a way that is easy to imagine and to picture in the minds eye. What would it feel like to work in the future organization? What would it be like for customers who engage with this organization?
  10. Inspiring: An effective vision engages and inspires people to commit to a cause. Vision appeals to the hearts and minds of people. Vision is inspiring when it captures the hearts of people. Vision is inspiring when it stops you in your tracks, grabs your heart and causes you to pay attention. An effective vision moves you emotionally, creating a desire to sign up to the cause.

When employees internalize the vision statement by having been involved in its development, they take action to make the vision statement come true.

Vision: Benefit to You *

Some benefits of effective visions:

  • Provide direction and help the organization prepare for the future
  • Provide guidance for decision making
  • Shape the organization’s strategy
  • Guide the types of people hired and promoted
  • Define what the organization will and will not do
  • Help set priorities and guide planning
  • Align people and activities across the organization
  • Provide purpose and a source of inspiration
  • Reflect an organization’s core values and beliefs
  • Empower people and help focus their efforts
  • Bring needed changes and inspire hope for the future

What is an Organizational Mission? *

An organization mission statement explains the purpose of a company in a brief written format. It consists of three essential components: 1. Key market: Who is your target client or customer (generalize if needed)? 2. Contribution: What product or service do you provide to that client? 3. Distinction: What makes your product or service unique, so that the client would choose you?

Mision: Benefit to You *

Companies whose employees understand the mission and goals enjoy a 29% greater return than other firms (Watson Wyatt Work Study). U.S. workers want their work to make a difference, but 75% do not think their company’s mission statement has become the way they do business (Workplace 2000 Employee Insight Survey).

What is Strategic Planning? *

Before we answer that question, let’s review what we mean by strategy:

What is Strategy? *

Strategy is the broadly defined path by which an organization is going to move and change over a period of years to achieve a quantified vision using a significant investment of time, money, and human resources. In the HBR article The Art of Crafting a 15-Word Strategy StatementAlessandro Di Fiore writes: “In my consulting work, I …[ask] my clients to summarize their strategy in less than 15 words. This statement must identify the target customer, the value proposition, and how the latter fits two requirements:

  • Focus: What you want to offer to the target customer and what you don’t;
  • Difference: Why your value proposition is divergent from competitive alternatives.”

In terms of what you want to offer to the target customer, consider these two things:

  1. You cannot be all things to all customers (Limits to Growth, systems archetype)
  2. What is it that the customer actually wants/needs vs. what YOU think they need.

Now, let’s talk about Strategic Planning: Strategic planning looks at all the things your organization could do and narrows it down to the things it is actually good at doing. A strategic plan helps business leaders determine where to spend time, human capital, and money. It establishes goals, objectives, and plans to advance the organization’s vision, mission and values. It is the process by which leaders of an organization determine what it intends to be in the future and how it will get there. To put it another way, the leadership develops a vision for the organization’s future and determine the necessary priorities, procedures, and operations (strategies) to achieve that vision. Included are measurable goals which are realistic and attainable, but also challenging; emphasis is on long-term goals and strategies, rather than short-term (such as annual) objectives. Strategic planning assumes that certain aspects of the future can be created or influenced by the organization. Strategic planning is ongoing; it is “the process of self-examination, the confrontation of difficult choices, and the establishment of priorities” (Pfeiffer et al., Understanding Applied Strategic Planning: A Manager’s Guide). Strategic planning involves “charting a course that you believe is wise, then adjusting that course as you gain more information and experience” (Wilder Foundation, Strategic Planning Workbook). From the book: Execution: The disciple of getting things done by Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan: “a good strategy planning process also requires the utmost attention to the hows of executing the strategy” The authors emphasis the importance of creating strategies that involve all parties and encourage robust debate, appropriate resources and regular strategic reviews throughout the year. From the Balanced Scorecard Institute, Strategic Planning Basics:

Strategic planning is an organizational management activity that is used to set priorities, focus energy and resources, strengthen operations, ensure that employees and other stakeholders are working toward common goals, establish agreement around intended outcomes/results, and assess and adjust the organization’s direction in response to a changing environment. It is a disciplined effort that produces fundamental decisions and actions that shape and guide what an organization is, who it serves, what it does, and why it does it, with a focus on the future. Effective strategic planning articulates not only where an organization is going and the actions needed to make progress, but also how it will know if it is successful.

A strategic plan is a document used to communicate with the organization the organizations goals, the actions needed to achieve those goals and all of the other critical elements developed during the planning exercise. 

Strategic Planning: Benefit to You *

  • Clearly defines the purpose of the organization and establishes realistic goals and objectives consistent with that mission in a defined time frame within the organization’s capacity for implementation.
  • Communicates those goals and objectives to the organization’s constituents.
  • Develops a sense of ownership of the plan.
  • Ensures the most effective use is made of the organization’s resources by focusing the resources on the key priorities
  • Provides a base from which progress can be measured and establishes a mechanism for informed change when needed.
  • Brings together of everyone’s best and most reasoned efforts have important value in building a consensus about where an organization is going.

Study after study has consistently proven that if conducted properly, strategic planning can positively impact the performance of the organization. In a mission-based organization that may mean the ability to serve more clients, access additional resources, or enhance the quality or scope of service. See also: Strategic Planning

Sources: *

Michael Porter, HBR Article, What is Strategy?
What is a Strategic Plan?
10 Characteristics of an Effective Vision
5 Steps to a Strategic Plan
Benefits of Strategic Planning
What are The Benefits of Strategic Planning? Euler Partners
Balanced Scorecard and Strategy Maps
Alexander Fiore, HBR Article re: 15 Word Strategy Statement



Rita SterlingVision, Mission & Strategic Planning