Creating Excellence in Board Leadership

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Establish Vision: A Word Picture of Success

Vision is a buzz word in the vocabulary of every leader of every organization these days. That’s important. Unless an organization has a well defined preferred future toward which all strategic endeavors are aimed, it merely continues to execute the same thing over and over expecting different results – some call that insanity.

Don’t confuse mission with vision. Mission defines why an organization exists and what it does. Mission is described with verbs and objects. Mission statements reflect hard work, sacrifice and investment. Conversely, vision defines where the organization is going, what it intends to become and how it characterizes success. Vision is described with nouns and adjectives. Vision statements reflect creative thinking, innovative yet realistic descriptions of what the organization could look like in ten years. A true vision statement provides direction, destination and the stretch necessary to get there.

Some “do not’s” when writing vision:

1. Do not use verbs or objects
2. Do not include actions or means-related activities
3. Do not include people, programs, buildings or forms of education
4. Do not use interim-type words like “try,” “examine,” “seek,” or “strive”
5. Do not use pretentious, cosmetic words or terms that exaggerate
6. Do not be vague – precise, realistic and achievable yet challenging is a must

“Layers” versus objectives. A very important concept in crafting a powerful vision. The word “objectives” has been applied in management settings since the 1950s or earlier; and when used they prescribe means-related activities or the “how to” for achievement. In the context of good governance boards refrain from engaging objectives. They leave such strategic planning work to staff or management.

A vision statement without definitive “layers” or “ENDs” (special terms in the context of board governance for defining vision) is open to anyone’s interpretation. Boards cannot afford to be vague when crafting vision. Layers provide necessary definition.

Here’s an example of a good vision statement (using nouns and adjectives) with defining “layers” from Starbucks. “The premier purveyor of the finest coffee in the world.” Check out the “layers.”

1. Work environment with respect & dignity
2. Diversity in the way we do business
3. Excellence in purchasing & roasting
4. Satisfied customers all the time
5. Profitability is essential to success

Starbucks believes that if they achieve the layers (which may have additional layers under each of the five above) they become, by their own definition, “The premier purveyor of the finest coffee in the world.”

When crafting vision the insights above can be very helpful.

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PO Box 5010 Bloomington, IL 61702
Phone:309-275-9734 or 309-287-0834