schneider + partners has over 25 years of experience helping creative and project based organisations to be even more successful in running their organisations and achieving their goals. This series of tips and supporting notes reflects some of the main issues that we have seen. Some are surprisingly elemental:
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Does your team know your vision for the organisation? … how you plan to achieve it? … their role in contributing to success?
In our experience the answer is often 'no'. Maybe it's because the vision is taken for granted by leaders. Sometimes those running the organisation aren’t clear themselves. Or the pressures of everyday work means that it can be hard to prioritise addressing the long term. Perhaps it is just difficult to come up with a statement of vision without sounding trite. Or maybe there is confusion over the distinction between vision, mission and value statements. (To clarify, your mission is a statement about your core purpose, about what you do. Your vision is about your desired state, where you want to be. And your values, are about the guiding principles underlying how you want your team to behave and interact.)
Without a clear vision in place - and effectively communicated - it will only be by luck that 'success' will be achieved. An organisation may survive, but it may end up in a place quite different to where it wanted to be, and lacking in coherency. In some respects it's like having a strong concept for the design or an architectural project, a product or a piece of art. Get it 'right' and everything else follows - from what you do, how you behave, what you communicate, to where you say it.
Of course there needs to be flexibility. Take the analogy of sitting in an airport departure lounge. Unless you know where you are going, and which plane you are planning to take, there is little chance of getting there. That doesn't preclude revising goals in the event of changing conditions or desires - but it does mean having a clear sense of direction at any point in time.
So how should a vision statement be developed? The core team should be asking itself, what would it look like if it could create the organisation of its dreams. Implicit within this there may be questions about the organisation's future activities, its impact on society, its reputation, who it would like to be working with, or what would be different from today? If it's a joint decision it may be useful to consider what people share in common in their views, as well as their differences. Ideally the statement should be just one or two sentences, memorable, aspirational and inspirational … And specific to your business - not something that anyone could say.
Some years ago one of our clients - a large commercial architectural practice - decided that it wanted to be "the UK's number 1 non-signature practice." A simple statement, but it conveyed a great deal about how it wanted to be perceived, about its core values internally, and about how success would be gauged.
In short, setting out the vision for an organisation is the critical first step in the strategic planning process. Without it, a business may survive, but who knows where it's going?
Know where you are going -
and communicate it