Have you ever been in a position where you were searching for a word to use and you kept calling out every word possible, BUT the word you were looking for? The English language is riddled with words that sound similar but can mean the very opposite of each other; for example, “evade” and “invade”. One means to sidestep and the other means to enter.
There are also those words spelled the same but mean different things. My favorite is “desert”. Now you didn’t confuse this word with something that means a sweet treat following a meal (dessert), did you? “Desert” pronounced one way means a dry, arid terrain. Pronounced another way means to abandon or leave.
Growing up in the United States, I have become accustomed to the idiosyncrasies of the American English language. That still doesn’t help me when I am searching for a specific word, so now you know why the dictionary and I are good friends. I mention this hurdle of confusion in language, because as we look at the Vision statement, it occurs to me that there is a lot of confusion around the subject.
When Joanne and I were first working on the Dynamic Strategy program we found folks writing a vision statement that, in fact, was a mission statement and vice versa. The two are not spelled the same and while the two sound somewhat similar, they are two very different statements and are defined differently. We define the Vision statement as the long-term view of a possible future of the organization; it outlines what the organization wants to be and concentrates on the future.
The vision is a source of inspiration and provides clear decision-making criteria. This is a crucial point and can’t be underscored enough. It means that as a leader, in your day-to-day activities of running the organization, when you have decisions to make, big or small, you want to consider what your organizational vision is and what impact your decisions will have on it.
Many organizations lose their focus over time and this is where it may start. They become content with the present circumstances, remaining in the present with no thought of the future. This leads to a loss of direction and motivation for the organization. Understanding that a Vision statement needs to motive others, we also can see why it is used to direct an organization’s future. It answers the question of where the organization is going. Without it, an organization can be lost.
Is your Vision statement clearly defining the future-state of your organization? Does your Vision statement provide clear decision-making criteria? Do you and your employees know, with out a doubt, where your business is headed?