Preparing for the vision discussion
Asking clients to articulate the change they want to see in the world and the distinctive role they will play in creating that change brings a vision discussion back to what really matters and leads to outcomes that teams feel passionate about.
But how do you get started on vision discussions?
Leaders need to be cognisant that their perspective of the organisation may be very different to that of other stakeholders.
Gaining broad input – through, for example, case studies, customer insights and staff engagement – can help stimulate your thinking.
By Debbie Williams and Zoe Pappas
In the December 2015 editions of Right Lane Review we described our approach to creating compelling company statements (Levy & Pappas 2015). With our social sector clients, rather than asking them to describe their vision, we like to ask them to articulate the change they want to see in the world and the distinctive role they will play in creating that change. We’ve found that this approach brings a vision discussion back to what really matters and leads to outcomes that they feel passionate about.
However, many boards and executive teams feel uncertain about where to start the process.
Creating your vision: Who should be involved?
One good starting point is understanding who should be involved. Will the executive alone develop a recommendation to take to the board, or will it be a collaborative process? Will the whole leadership team be involved at every step or are we comfortable with ideas being progressed by a working group? Should we consult more broadly or should this be a ‘captain’s call’?
We suggest getting broad input at the start of the process, taking the board and leadership team on the journey together, but being clear as to who will ultimately decide on the vision once a broad consensus has been reached.
Leaders need to be cognisant that their perspective of the organisation may be very different to that of other stakeholders. Getting input from staff, customers and others can be very useful in informing the discussion.
Right Lane uses five techniques to kick start vision discussions and stimulate new ideas.
1. Reflections from our ‘founding fathers’
Conduct interviews or review documents to gain insights and reflections as to why your organisation was started in the first place. How has the organisation changed over the years? What aspects have remained consistent? If possible, video the ‘founding fathers’ to bring to life the passion that surrounded the founding of the organisation.
2. Online surveys
Conduct a survey of the board and executive team to understand how your leaders think about your organisation. Performing the survey online allows everybody to share their thoughts independently of the influence of others. Questions could include: What do you think your organisation does well? Why does your organisation exist? What do we really care about?
3. Vox pop videos
Film staff as they arrive in the morning and get off the cuff responses. What gets you out of bed in the morning to come to work? Who is your organisation? What do you think your organisation does well? This can easily be recorded on a smart phone and curated with free editing software.
4. Case studies of excellence
Develop case studies of similar organisations that are excelling in living their vision and being true to their core purpose. Try to go beyond the corporate statements to interviews with the leaders of these organisations to get to the heart of their success.
5. Customer insights
Interview your customers to identify their purpose – what drives them to do what they do? Ask them what they value about your organisation and why? Talk to front line staff and understand their perspectives on customer motivations.
In the last few months Right Lane has seen a groundswell of organisations coming to us to assist in developing their vision or purpose statements.
Discussions about company statements can go badly awry, but with someone who knows what they’re doing leading the effort, careful preparation, and sufficient time and effort invested in the process, they can be energising for an organisation. Good company statements are not only galvanising, they support alignment, better decision making and more purposeful action.
Levy, M & Pappas, Z 2015 ‘Create compelling company statements: A new approach for the social sector’, Right Lane Review, June
If you would like Right Lane to help you develop your vision or other company statements, contact Debbie Williams: firstname.lastname@example.org