Keeping a Strategic Vision

Knowing a vision IS important, but how do you implement it so that it makes sense? You could just simply fold keywords and carefully worded phrases into the literature and philosophy of the mission and hope that every body 'gets it.' But how do you ensure that implementers and followers of your vision understand the strategic value of its goals? How will they automatically know when important ones will be attained or missed?

"A vision is - first and foremost - a simple, concise statement of an ideal future state," says Linda Shinn of Consesus Management Group. "Creating a vision begins the process of planning. It's also the guidepost that will help focus future planning and it's never complete. Plus, it has to be communicated and shared if it's to be actualized."

Shinn goes on to say that well-designed visions provide guideposts so that implementers and followers can compare "here-there" productivity and navigate effectively during the inevitable course changes. Such guideposts are more than milestones, she says. They help focus attention on future planning and impresses upon people that the vision is organic and, thus, maliable.  Therefore, to frame your mission in the context of success you must provide as much flexibility as possible within anticipated constraints to allow your people to take advantage of all opportunities as they arrive.

In practice, all of the important components of the vision should be frequently overhauled to ensure environmental relevancy and effectiveness. Shinn cautions that the overhaul should "keep the central points (like values)," to ensure that the rank and file can see how the vision has changed and, thus, make personal adjustments particularily in the collective effort to reach, achieve, and self-evaluate. If you take out the milestones and the landscape, how will you know if you are moving forward or backward?

Identifying fixed and variable goals are also major players in a strategic plan. Fixed goals are the long-term ambitions of the organization. They help the group as a whole 'plant the flag' towards lofty achievement. They are often part of the high-level aspects of the mission, i.e., to be the best we can be, to be number one. Variable goals are more personal short-term platues that the individual can measure their personal successes. They often range from mere production deadlines or quota targets, to feel-good personal accomplishment.

In setting these all-important goals, Shinn advises that you ask yourself these questions: How do they move us toward achieving our mission? How important is this to our overall mission? How do they affect key stakeholders? How do they benefit the organization? How do they benefit the individual? How realistic are they? And what is our time limit?

Follow up your implementation with robust accountability and evaluation, says Shinn. And don't forget the update mechanisms. "Then and only then, continues Shinn, will you have a true strategic vision plan."

A sound strategic plan can be a map to a predetermined destination. But, how functional it is depends on how carefully you invent the desired future and well the implementers and followers can visualize the goals. Otherwise, it is merely a wish list.