You’ve got to think about ‘big things’ while you’re doing small things, so that all the small things go in the right direction.Alvin Toffler1
The reason most vision statements fail is that they’re as statements.
Instead of treating a company vision as a North Star—something that is used to guide decision-making—most companies attempt to codify the vision in a brief statement that’s treated as an endpoint. They treat a vision statement as a magic tool: it’s as if just by having one, they’ll be imbued with some preternatural power that supercharges their business.
But, company visions aren’t magical talismans. Company visions are tools.
A company vision should be a tool that gets translated into strategies and behaviors that affect everyday decision-making. A company vision allows you to determine what short-term actions will translate into achieving a business’s long-term goals.
But, what usually happens when a company vision is treated as a statement is that it exists only to be pulled out when executives make half-hearted attempts to boost the morale of their employees. And, the day-to-day actions are littered with tasks that bear no relation to what the statement proposes,
A company vision helps you think beyond the company of today in order to build the company of tomorrow.
A company vision should be a means, not an end. Its usefulness is in its ability to create a strategy that pushes the organization towards the company vision and in its ability to eliminate anything that doesn’t push the business in that direction. It’s an evaluative tool that keeps you focused on long-term goals.
If you’re thinking of your company vision as a statement instead of an evaluative tool, you’re likely not making effective use of your company vision.
Get rid of the idea that a company vision should be a statement and instead think of it as a tool you can use to help you transform your organization into the best version of itself.
- Rod Willis, “Dare to Imagine the Future: An Interview with Alvin Toffler,” Management Digest, 1988. ↩