Develop a Vision
Success in entrepreneurship depends upon two important things.
VISION: Seeing the invisible &
MISSION: Doing the impossible.
Wal-Mart Visionary: Sam Walton
The highly intelligent entrepreneur who was the sharp mind behind WalMart was Sam Walton. Founder of one of the most highly-recognized stores in the world, he was a visionary who understood the need for everyone to have access to goods without suffering financially. Living through the Great Depression, and working to help his parents make ends meet, Sam was given an education on the responsibilities of adulthood, from an early age. The very first Wal-Mart opened its doors in 1962 in Arkansas, and Sam Walton’s store domination began. The business world had no idea what was about to hit them. Stocking American products, Walton and his brothers – who joined the business later – went on to source American suppliers, which would compete with foreign industry, but also keep the prices down for locals. 1,900 Stores later, Walton’s concepts remain the same. Sam Walton passed away in 1992 due to Leukemia. His passing was mourned by his wife, children and everyone across the world of WalMart. This entrepreneur and business visionary left behind a legacy that his children could be exceedingly proud of.
The vision of an organization is “an image of the future‟. An image that is not yet real but that we can envisage in our minds; an image of what the organization should/could look like, partly analytical, partly emotional. An image that combines elements of the present situation with elements that can be envisaged. There is an inherent challenge in creating a vision.
Why organizations need a vision?
Why should organizations bother about having a vision? First of all, a clear and well-formulated vision gives all employees the feeling that the organization is carrying out a meaningful task. As such, having a vision is a motivating factor: it can give people a feeling of importance no matter how small their contribution to the realization of the task may seem. Furthermore, a vision gives the future a clearer and therefore nearly always a more positive shape. Having a vision of the future will make it easier for people to continue and to contribute positively whenever the organization is going through hard times. Even though they have to face difficulties, they still know why it is worthwhile to keep on going. Having a vision gives an organization the strength to withstand commotion, crises and growing complexity. If the environment becomes turbulent it helps if you are clear about the direction you go. The vision will then function as a beacon.
If people feel committed to the realization of a vision, this vision can be the foundation of a strong corporate culture. Then the vision gives direction to people in the organization and they will be able to recognize why certain rules and values exist to contribute to the image of the future. A strong corporate culture generates a corporate identity, a uniform image to the outside world reflecting the heart of the organization. People can explain to others what it is they make a stand for, what people can expect from them as member of the organization. It creates a strong feeling of solidarity that is mutually shared. This can motivate people to give really the full hundred percent of their energy.
A strong image to the outside world will help to attract clients, suppliers, potential employees, sponsors and other stakeholder. Having a well-developed vision will be beneficial in creating confidence of external parties. This is clearly seen at Wall street, where shareholders often let their decisions depend on clarity of visions of companies. The vision will streamline all activities and flows in the organization, and help in dealing with doubts and uncertainties.
There is a standard you can use to measure your activities against: is this still contributing to the realization of our vision? Similarly, a vision is a source of indicators, enabling the monitoring of the development of strategic fields of activities and potential areas of interventions.
Finally, if the development of a vision is a shared process, it enhances the mutual dialogue and cooperation in the organization. By sharing dreams and ambitions for the future people make themselves known. This creates better mutual understanding and clearly shows the need and willingness for cooperation. So the process of developing a vision can in itself be beneficial to the organization’s wellbeing.
What’s in a vision?
The vision of an organization comprises the following elements:
- mission / core business
- core activities / product and clients
- working approach and core values
- long-term goal
- Mission/core business
The mission of an organization is in fact the reason for its existence. It is largely determined by its core business, its main field of activity. The mission is the answer to the question: why are we here, what purpose do we serve?
- Core activities/products and clients
The core activities/products and clients of an organization are answer to the question: how does the organization try to realize its mission?
- Working approach and core values
Working approach and core values go hand in hand. Core values determine how we want to carry out our work, how we deal with each other inside our organization and how we act in relation to people outside the organization.
- Long-term goal
As a vision is future-oriented and somehow must direct the members of an organization, it is good practice to define one or more long-term goals. Depending on the dynamics of the business the organization, such long-term goals can be specified for a period between five to thirty years.
Characteristics of a well-developed vision
A well-developed vision shows a number of characteristics. It must be:
- Challenging: The future as described in the vision should neither be too far nor too close by. In both cases the vision is not challenging. A vision must have an inherent tension between what is already there and what is not yet there.
- Inspiring: This can partly be reached by stating the vision positively. Exclude everything the organization does not want to be, but, on the contrary, emphasize what it aspires to be. Whether a vision is inspiring also depends on the way it has been formulated and on whether it still lives in the organization.
- Shared: In order to have the vision as a picture everyone can and wants to use and refer to, the vision must have been contributed to by the majority of the stakeholders.
- Binding: The employees or staff members should feel to be part of team. For this reason it is necessary that everyone can recognize his/her own individual vision, at least partly, in the vision of the organization.
- Giving direction: That means that the vision really visualizes the future in a picture that is clear enough to serve as a beacon.
A vision should be cautiously developed as it is a valuable instrument to guide an organization.