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20 Nov

Does a company's vision really need to be fuzzy?

Date: 2009-11-20 09:23 Comments: 0 st

When I hold a strategy workshop with a board or management team, they sometimes disagree on how distinct the vision is allowed to be. Someone may say “Well, in ten years time, we have accomplished this and that.” whereupon someone else objects by saying “No, that’s not a vision! It is far too concrete and measurable! It’s a goal!”

I have thought a lot about this lately. Is it really true that a company’s vision needs to be fuzzy in order to be a vision? Is there an inherent risk in a concrete and distinct vision?

Not just another rock among others

The purpose of a vision is for me to help us define a distinct direction in which we will move this business. Since I am a former orienteer, I know that the odds that I reach my destination improves if I know that I want to find that particular rock at the base of the hill, not any rock. The odds worsen if I just run “north, somewhere, I think”.
The risk in having a distinct vision emerges only if we think that we need to fulfill the once stated vision completely in every detail in order to succeed, if we see every variation as a sign of failure. So, it’s all about our approach rather than about how the vision is stated.

Off to the sun

Let’s ponder the travel catalogues that we receive in the mail on a weekly basis this time of year. They tempt us with beautiful destinations in hot and sunny countries. Looiking at the pictures that introduce us to de coastal villages and the beaches, we see that they are rather clear and sharp (in focus). Never are they without focus, where we only could guess what they contain. No, the beaches are shimmering white, the sea is deep blue, there are palm trees and happy, beautiful peopel that run and play in the sand. These images paint a very clear vision to lure us into booking a trip.
But, we do understand that our trip will not be identical to what we have seen of the destination from the pictures. We will not sue the travel agent if we don’t feel as happy there as the people in the picture and if the beach isn’t as sparsely populated. We know that the pictures are just illustrations that show us an approximation. Our experience only has to correspond just about, even if the images where very clear.

I think that this also applies to when we form our business’ vision. We paint a possible future and we still know that there are nuances. It is possible that we end up as in our vision (and maybe in an even better place) and maybe we do not get all the way there, but I’m sure that we reach further than if we hadn’t formed this particular vision.

The hard facts are in the details

Close to the presentations of the destinations in these catalogues, are the descriptions of every single hotel. That is where the hard facts are: that every room has a TV, that the beach is 200 metres away, that the hotel has four restaurants. These are the things we measure. If these promises aren’t fulfilled, that is when we complain. So, I think it is easy for us to separate the goals to measure and the vision to just strive for.

It’s OK to be distinct

Therefore, let’s not be afraid of forming concrete and distinct visions, as long as we are aware of that it isn’t a failure if we don’t fulfill them precisely. It will be easier to define a distinct direction, if the vision is clear and concrete, instead of fuzzy and sweeping.

What are your thoughts on this matter? You’re most welcome to leave a comment below.

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