Everyone is talking about how it is the most important thing for entrepreneurs, managers and executives to have visions. I disagree. In my opinion, having a vision is mandatory in those positions. The actual most important ability for entrepreneurs, managers and executives is to be able to get from having a vision to living it.
Transforming a vision into implementable measures might be the supreme discipline for everyone in charge of an organization’s long-term development. During the past years, we supported our clients with their vision implementation and found our best-practice model on how to do it. But before telling you about the model, let me quickly define what it means to have a vision.
A vision is a wished-for state in the (mid-term) future which can be visualized and shared and has the power to mobilize others. Visions can be formulated for a company, a business unit or even a single business process, as they describe an ideal, no matter the dimension.
Considering that visions can be relevant for every part of the company, everyone within a company can have visions. Thinking about the future shouldn’t be seen as an exclusive task for top managers and board members and therefore encouraged among all positions. An organization will thrive when all of its members participate in sharing their vision about development opportunities for their operative areas.
However, when we talk about visions, we usually refer to the big ones. The ones which might change the course of a company, innovate its established processes or even open up new markets. Those visions are the ones we usually support our clients with, because they are as powerful as they are difficult to implement. There are two main challenges with those big visions:
1. Not everyone can relate
In contrast to a vision a team leader might have for her/his team, visions which affect more than a handful of people are often more difficult to grasp. In addition, change often comes with a feeling of uncertainty which some people find quite scary. If you don’t help people to relate to your vision, they won’t commit to implementing it. To do so, you need to communicate your vision properly, but here is another issue with visions:
2. They are hard to communicate
A vision, which implies changes for a broad group of people within an organization, has to be communicated appropriately for every target group. Depending on their position and department, you will have to choose a different wording and information focus for the addressee of your communication. However, identifying the different target groups and composing the right message is challenging and you will only have one chance for the vision communication to make a positive first impression.
The method I want to present to you will help you to overcome both of these issues. When implementing a vision, we use an integrated cascade to connect the overarching vision to strategic initiatives:
The cascade consists out of a vision statement, a mission statement, a strategy house, program boards and project charters.
The vision statement will depict the organization’s future state and ambitions and therefore set the overall direction.
A mission statement will define how the vision should be achieved and outlines key priorities and a way of working.
The strategy house will define concrete fields of actions and strategic themes, which all together create a consistent picture to facilitate communication and execution.
Program boards make overarching areas of action more specific, for example by nominating program management and defining ambitious targets. They allocate responsibility and allow a unified project monitoring.
The project charters show relevant objectives and interdependencies with other initiatives. In addition, they provide further project information, a roadmap and ensure a consistent description and definition of all strategic initiatives.
1. It creates consistency
The cascade will ensure the overall consistency within an organization and facilitates execution and monitoring of all initiatives. That’s important because, like I said, a vision has the power to mobilize a lot of people. However, if they are not aligned in the first place, how should they know in which direction they need to start moving? There are many ways to reach a goal but not all of them are time and resource efficient or even smart. An integrated cascade will therefore help everyone to prioritize the topics and measures, which are truly relevant for the vision implementation.
2. It points out needed resources and alignments
Moreover, using the cascade will force everyone to become concrete about the implications for the organization. It will help the vision to become more real and to check, if the organization has all needed skills and capacities to implement it. If the vision requires resources that are currently unavailable within the company, it’s an early indicator to start thinking about how to acquire them.
3. It facilitates communication
Being clear about the measures and responsibilities will also help to communicate the vision among the organization. Seeing who is affected by the upcoming changes will facilitate the identification of the communication target groups as well. An integrated strategy cascade will therefore make a vision more tangible for everyone.
4. It’s a blueprint
Once an organization learned how to build and use an integrated strategy cascade to implement a vision, the model can be used as a blueprint in the future, and can – for example – be updated in the annual strategy process. We always recommend to collect the learnings from each implementation process and make them available for future projects, so they can benefit from them. Having a tried and tested model for vision implementation is beneficial for every organization.
To sum it up: Implementing a vision can be tricky as visions are often hard to grasp and difficult to communicate. We therefore recommend our clients the use of an integrated strategy cascade. The cascade will ensure internal consistency for the implementation process, points out all needed resources and facilitates the communication of the vision. In addition, once a company has worked with the cascade, it can be used as a blueprint in the future. If you want to implement a vision within your organization and would like to exchange some thoughts on the topic or get support, get in touch with us! You can message me directly via firstname.lastname@example.org or give us a call +49 (0)40 699 19 799.
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