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20 Nov

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

Datum: 2009-11-20 09:23

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.