A recent article by Mark Federman on Linked2Leadership titled “Honest Leadership: The End of “Vision”” drew my attention. At the outset it must be said that he introduced me to a new dimension of strategy planning…that of tactility. Tactility has to do with how the culture, products, and the organization “feel” to employees, customers, clients, and the community in which the business resides. As Federman instructs, leaders must be aware of the direct and indirect effects your organization is creating along the way of achieving their vision. It is certainly an overlooked dimension of strategy plans for many organizations. However, Federman stated that “vision is more than over-rated” and “is counter-productive to providing appropriate leadership.” This writer must respectfully disagree. Again, I appreciate Federman’s contribution to the organizational development discussion by the addition of tactility but it should not be at the expense of well developed “visioneering.”
VISION STATEMENTS THAT MOVED PEOPLE
- Moses’ Vision of a “Land Flowing with Milk and Honey”: Exodus 3:7 presents one of the best vision statements in human history. It was presented by God to Moses who in turn presented it to the people of Israel. The vision catch phrase “land flowing with milk and honey” is repeated forty-six times in the English Bible, specifically in the Old Testament.
- Knights of the Round Table: However mythical it may have been, the vision of King Arthur’s round table evokes a mental image of leaders of varying levels having an equal voice at the table of governance. Wace (c. 1115 to c. 1183) was the first to coin the phrase “Knights of the Roundtable” to describe the equality King Arthur supposedly gave to his supporting leaders in order to quell jealousies between them. Again, however mythical, the vision has inspired many with the ideals of Camelot.
- John F. Kennedy’s “Moon Trip” Vision: I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the Earth.
- Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” Speech: A vision that has yet to be realized but has the potential to transform and empower American culture at all levels.
These vision statements have motivated people to move heaven and earth to achieve new heights. Note that some of the examples of vision statements have other sensory perceptions embedded in them. We may like the taste of milk and honey; the round table provides a feeling of empowerment and equality; imagining the moon trip evokes much curiosity regarding feelings; and “I have a dream” provides feelings of good will in peace. There are many vision statements listed were or are actualized at a high level, yet there are vision statements at various levels that transform single organizations or businesses as well as higher level vision statements that transform larger masses of people.
Vision is transformational!
STRATEGY IS STATIC BUT VISION IS VIRAL
The point is that strategy for organizational development and planning leaves most people cold, except for the Mr. Spock geeks who get excited about the subject. One way to understand the difference between strategy and vision is to see the former as the space shuttle and the latter as the fuel. Without the fuel the space shuttle goes nowhere, thus the statement “strategy is static but vision is viral.
Working as a medical technologist provided this writer understanding of the meaning of the term “viral.” Working at the U.S. National Naval Medical Center in 1981 as a medical laboratory technician, the staff was informed of a yet unknown virus that had been identified mostly limited to homosexual males. Information was scarce and there was not even a name for the contagion. By 1982 the contagion was given the name “AIDS” – Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. By 1983 AIDS was reported among non-drug using women and children. By 1990 it was estimated that 8 million people were living with HIV worldwide. The virus had spread around the world in nine years. While this is a negative example of vision going viral, it does illustrate the idea from which the concept comes.
Using a positive illustration of vision, President Kennedy cast the vision of the moon landing in 1962 and it was accomplished in 1969. There was clearly a significant degree of interest, urgency, buy-in, and money invested into the vision to make it happen, but it would have never “gotten off of the ground” without the original vision cast by a person of influence.
Many vision statements are not visual.
VISION CREATES URGENCY
Federman reported that organizational leaders recited their vision statement with little personal passion or buy-in. I suggest that what they thought was a vision statement was no more that another strategy point. Vision creates urgency and buy-in among constituents and they will endure great challenges to see it become a reality because they can “see” it. Real vision takes on a life of its own but it always has three characteristics:
- Vision is visual as it easily creates a mental image to which people can relate.
- Vision is inspiring as it is something that people want to become real.
- Vision is simple as it is easily passed from one person to another and to increasingly larger groups of people. Simple means that vision may be reduced to five words or less.
Vision statements should be five words or less!
Again, Federman is right by including tactility in the organizational development arsenal, but without vision, tactility may remain as just another rung on the ladder of a weak or failed strategy. The best strategy plan will include both tactility and vision.
Be sure to read Dr. Mark Federman’s response to this article: More On the End of Vision
QUESTIONS FOR THOUGHT:
- Do you agree that vision is just as important as other elements of strategy planning
- Will you include both tactility and vision in your planning?
- Is your organization’s vision statement visual, inspiring, and simple?
Dr. Tom Cocklereece is CEO of RENOVA Coaching and Consulting, LLC
He is an author, pastor, coach, and leadership specialist