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Seven ingredients for a great organisational vision

If you hear people complain, see siloed work and your team isn't functioning like a well-oiled machine, you may need to review your vision. But what is a good vision and what is the value of having one?

At Ink Strategy, we put our heads together to outline the seven key ingredients of a great vision. Whether you’re working on a project, running a change programme or you’re the CEO; a powerful, ambitious vision is key to aligning everyone in the same direction. If your vision is engaging, it will give teams autonomy and the freedom to playfully experiment and will help leadership reduce the need for micromanagement.

Here's a checklist you can use to see how your vision lines up with what we think are the essential building blocks for a successful organisational vision. We believe this will work for projects, programmes and organisational visions. Let's get cooking.

1. A vision provides direction.

Does your vision give you enough room to move flexibly toward a clear future perspective?

A vision provides direction by explaining the bigger picture of the desired future. While a good vision is clear on the essence of that future, it does not spell out all the details. The more you know about a topic the harder it gets to separate the essential from the bulk, but that’s what a good vision does. In a blink, it allows us to grasp the main idea of where you want to go. View Case at As Watson

2. Vision clearly identifies the why.

Does everyone know why we are changing from A to B?

People want to know why a particular direction was chosen. A good vision always addresses the ‘why?’ When defining the why of a transition it’s important to appreciate that different stakeholders have different interests. For example, process automation can cut cost for management, free up time for more interesting work for other employees and lower prices for customers. It’s important to address these reasons for change in your vision.

3. A vision is practical.

Are there enough examples of practical behaviour that inspire your team to act differently? 

A vision concisely shows what is aimed for instead of using business jargon and abstract concepts. Imagine you’re at a party and you’ve had a few drinks; the music is nice and you discover some cool people dancing. But then, someone comes up to you and starts talking about a reorganisation, meeting customer demands, an IPO, return on investment and process optimisation. You get the point—people don’t like business jargon—not while at a party or even at work. It’s dead language: uninspiring, void of real meaning and hard to understand. That’s why a good vision displays concrete examples of what is aimed for instead of using abstract concepts. View a case.

4. A vision is co-created.

Was a large group of people engaged in a co-creation process to create the vision?

A vision should be collectively defined by management and shared with key stakeholders throughout an organisation for feedback. It should not be designed by one visionary sitting at the top of a pyramid. A strong vision needs different perspectives from different people. That’s why a structured conversation between various stake holders enables them to combine and build upon each other’s ideas in a very effective way. This does not mean bringing everybody to the table right away though. It’s best to start with a managerial perspective, then share the draft with a broader audience to gather feedback. View a case with United nations.

5. The overall vision is translated all the way 'down.'

Is your vision broken into unique stories for different departments so everyone knows how to contribute?

The overall vision for an organisation translates all the way ‘down:’ from department, to team, to person. It should focus on essence, while at the same time have a clear need for more in-depth information. Departments, teams, and individuals will always ask: “What does this transformation mean for me?” In deep dives, the vision should be broken down into sub-chapters. The goal for any vision-driven organisation should be that all structures, products & services and individual acts can be explained in the overall vision.

6. The vision must remain visible to everyone.

Is the vision visible every day, in every meeting and repeated enough?
Could you walk around and ask everyone to tell you what the vision is and get the same answer?

For a vision to drive change and become a reality, it should be visible and experienced in various ways, and on a frequent basis. There is no harm in repeating the message over and over again with: posters, email signatures, a movie, ambassador sessions, internal media campaigns, you name it. All to support and drive matching behaviour to make it all come true.

7. All employees can connect to the vision.

Is your vision, strategy or programme built upon great stories and not just factual statements?

An organisation is made up of its people, it should be the same for a vision. This means that a vision must be told, shared, and lived by the people. But this does not happen automatically. The best way to achieve this is to facilitate a process of story-building (rather than story-telling).

The idea is that the vision story is built, enriched and made more robust every time it’s told. No matter who talks about the vision, all stories should essentially convey the same idea. How it’s told and what details are shared vary depending on the person sharing the story. This method of story-building helps people connect with the vision on a deeper, more personal level and thus helps them find meaning in their work. At the same time, ownership is significantly strengthened, and the vision is anchored in the organisation. View a storytelling case with ING.

If your answer to any of these questions was no, then give us a call and we can give you some pointers!

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