Creating a truly useful vision statement

An organisation’s growth begins with a vision. The act of envisioning a desirable future ultimately inspires the initiation of specific activities to deliver the envisaged destination.

Advanced strategic planning is anchored on the understanding that to effectively plan a realistic strategy, the aspired destination must first be defined, refined and clearly understood. A strategic plan that begins with a clear end in mind is likely to carry the right focus through its various facets.

Defining the future state of an organisation is ideally the duty of the leadership. And it is not about coming up with catchy statements to impress stakeholders with. The vision statement must be true to the essence of the organisation.

Past studies have shown that organisations with realistic visions achieve success. One study by Harvard Business School, for instance, concluded after 20 years of study that companies that had set clear goals and had followed them through had become the most successful.

So, what’s the starting point in goal setting?

First, it is necessary to understand that to have a clearly defined ideal future is to generate a high sense of responsibility and direction in the business. That conviction brings about the kind of seriousness that is necessary to create a realistic futuristic image of the organisation.

Visioning and vision statement

Visioning involves finding the perfect statement that strongly describes the futuristic outlook of the organisation. Think of a concise expression that speaks of what the organisation must work toward by a specified time in future.

A good vision statement is one that immediately inspires and energises. It is one that seeks to have ceilings broken, but within realistic parameters. That means you avoid clichés.

Good visioning requires concentration and patience. Remember, it is aimed at delivering a long-term objective. It must be pursued meticulously. Although there is no standard formula, following are minimal guide steps that can be built upon, depending on one’s preference and organisational situation:

  1. a) Write down existing organisational paradigms and boundaries. Doing so will help you to put a finger to the limitations that unnecessarily restrict your organisation from venturing into new frontiers. Some limitations may be found in your organisational DNA (values and culture). Others would be in your defined markets, customers, competitors and geographic area, or in your competencies, governance structure, standards, reputation and industry. The reason you list them down is to envision an ideal future without them.
  2. b) Put down ideas relating to your future vision and brainstorm. Great visioning requires team effort. The strategy team should debate, fine-tune and ultimately through consensus, shortlist the most desirable options from the ideas.
  3. c) At this stage, a sub-committee made up of three to four members should be given the task to draft the ideal future statement, which is then reviewed by the larger group and other stakeholders. Their feedback is used to coin a final vision statement.