A clear, focused vision is a critical skill for strategic thinking. There are three key benefits to having a clearly defined and focused vision.
1. A good vision will draw you forward, and define the larger undertaking that drives your activities.
Think about the difference between NASA in the 1960s, when they – and the nation – were energized by the audacious goal of reaching the moon in 10 years, and NASA in the 1970s, which had no giant-sized vision for their future. When you are working on anything that supports a good vision, it carries the hope of the vision with it. That means that NASA electricians, receptionists and janitors weren’t just doing mundane jobs – they were going to the moon.
2. A clearly defined vision tells us exactly what the vision is, of course.
More importantly, a clearly defined vision tells us what it is NOT. Without clear definition, people may wiggle around within the conceivable interpretations of the vision. In companies, this wiggling can lead to people working at cross purposes even though they are (in their minds) pursuing the same vision.
3. Finally, focus allows us to create greater leverage towards a vision with limited resources.
The more limited your resources, the more critical a focused vision will be to seeing success. Imagine you have a very small business, maybe one with 10 employees. Trying to be a player in a billion dollar industry may seem exciting, but success will be far more likely if your vision forces you to focus on a smaller chunk that matches your resources. Low market share correlates strongly with low profitability, so your business with limited resources will have higher profitability going after a focused subset of the industry because your market share will be larger.
These three benefits point to three key actions to take if you want to have a great vision.
First, you must have a process that creates a vision for the future (and not just an extension of the current situation).
Real vision moves us forward and gives us direction. Writing the vision down gives it teeth and reality.
Second, it’s worth spending time to assure that you state your vision clearly and unambiguously.
It’s one thing to say we will sell more, and it’s another thing to say we will sell five times as much in five years. You also want to be sure that your stated vision matches the reality of your dreams.
Third, be crystal clear that you cannot do everything.
Furthermore, the more you clearly DO NOT include in your vision statement, the easier it will be to achieve forward motion with your vision. Bright, shiny objects can distract anyone, and focus is a key tool for avoiding that distraction.
Do you feel you have the ability to generate a clear, focused vision? Congratulations! You have another one of the 11 critical skills for strategic thinking. Otherwise, if you’d like to learn more about strategic thinking and more specifically how to generate a clear, focused vision, Simplified Strategic Planning is a great place to start. For great ideas on how to improve the quality of your planning, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Consider holding a one-day workshop on Simplified Strategic Planning.
Dana Baldwin is Senior Strategist with the Center for Simplified Strategic Planning, Inc. He can be reached by email at email@example.com.