A company’s shared vision needs to reside in the heart and head – not just of its chief executive but also of its entire directorship. By Madhu Fernando
Vision defines corporate direction and underpins the future plans and actions of organisations. Vision establishes the focus and sets the priorities of an enterprise. A clear vision will be understood and respected by every member of the organisation.
As Peter Senge says in his famous book The Fifth Discipline, shared vision describes an image that people carry in their hearts as well as in their heads. He argues that shared vision has the force to connect and commit individuals one to another – and to the new future they are bound to create. A shared vision answers the question: What do we want to create?
Senge says that, just as personal visions are pictures or images that people carry around in their heads and hearts, shared visions are the pictures that people throughout an organisation carry. He sees shared vision as more powerful than just an idea shared by everyone on the board of directors; it is a force in people’s hearts, a force of impressive power.
Building a shared vision
Realise your vision by clarifying what you really want in discussion with others to see whether they have similar views. Even if they don’t, try brainstorming to see whether any of their ideas could compose the common vision your organisation should follow.
The collaborative process of making sense of an individual vision and turning it into a shared vision will help you understand the future direction of your organisation.
People’s ideas can never be exactly the same. First, clarify individual expectations, then as a team try to see how they match with the organisational needs. Defining the vision involves understanding what is important to the individual members of the board and what is important to the organisation.
A marketing tool?
Many companies have a nicely written vision in their corporate brochures, but in the boardroom they do not talk about their vision for the future. Do not come up with a vision for your company just to use it as a marketing tool. Be clear about what you want to see in the future, and how your organisation should look in future. Then think about how you can make it happen. It will give you a clear and simple vision for your organisation that can later be communicated to other interested parties.
Direction or plan of action?
Some people believe that the vision is there to provide direction rather than specific details. But if you do not know how you are planning to get where you want to go, you will not be able to influence others to join you. When you dream about the future of your organisation, try to think about how you are going to turn dreams into reality. As John Naisbitt says in Reinventing the Corporation, vision creates the link between dream and action. You cannot have your vision realised by others if you are unclear about how to make it happen.
Everyone on the board should have a clear idea of what could be accomplished through the organisation’s vision before they accept it as a shared vision. The best vision for the future will be a vision shared by everyone on the board, representing all the great ideas for the future, and working towards it.
“Facilitating shared vision in organisation”, Eigeles, D., Journal of European Industrial Training (UK), 2003 Vol 27 No 5.
Building a Shared Vision: A Leader’s Guide to Aligning the Organisation, Patrick Lewis, C., Productivity Press, 1997.
Beyond Strategic Vision, Effective Corporate Action With Hoshin Planning, Cowley, M., Domb, E., Butterworth-Heinemann, March 1997.
The Capable Company, Lynch, R., Diezemann, J., Dowling, J., Blackwell Publishing, 2003.
How Not To
Fuehrership beyond the call of duty
The worst public-relations gaffe award goes to David Raub, president of Glenview State Bank in Chicago. In a monthly newsletter for the bank’s trust customers Raub wrote: “The Great Depression of the 1930s saw falling prices, staggering unemployment and shattered stockmarkets all over the world, and the world’s leading statesmen seemed helpless to defeat it. Except for one. His name was Adolph Hitler.” Raub is looking for another job.
Dog of a promo
Most off-the-planet business idea goes to the Mitsukoshi department store in Japan, which put on a fashion show – for dogs (including poodles, dachshunds and chihuahuas). The dogs took to the catwalk modelling new fashion wear for canines. A canary yellow raincoat was going for ¥8500 ($109) and a striped rugby jersey for ¥4000. For the romantically inclined mutt there was a white wedding dress on show, costing ¥4038. Spokesman Satoshi Shimura said: “It is the kind of thing that appeals to hard-core dog lovers.”
Prize for the most lateral approach to customer service goes to the fashion shops in Beijing. According to a report in the Hong Kong edition of the China Daily, they use “magic mirrors” to fool fat women customers into thinking they look slimmer in their clothes. The paper said the shops were having mirrors specially made with a curved surface that made people look more slender when they tried on items in the fitting rooms. The revelations came after one woman bought a dress that seemed to make her look thinner. When she tried it on back at home, she discovered that the garment actually made the most of her ample proportions. An industry insider told the newspaper that sales of the “magic mirrors” had increased dramatically in recent months amid booming demand from clothes shops.
The weirdest dispute over intellectual property is between Italian TV station Canale 5 and Elio Pari, who claims that the television bosses stole his idea. At one stage Pari went to a Milan court, asking it to stop a show going to air. And the idea? The Velone Show, which replaces girls in skimpy bikinis, or less, with fully dressed wisecracking, dancing grannies. Pari’s scheme was called the Miss Over beauty pageant for older women. “Their format is almost exactly the same as the grannies category in our event. We came up with this concept 11 years ago,” Pari said, adding that potential candidates had been seduced away from his annual pageant by the lure of TV lights. The station, owned by Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s Mediaset company, said the program was an original idea and had nothing to do with Miss Over.
One equine latte – hold the harness
The product least likely to sell is the one offered by a coffee shop in the Valdres region of Norway. It’s a new kind of coffee – a latte made with horse milk. “I think it is great,” the product’s developer, Berit Bergset, told Norwegian Broadcasting. “We primarily sell the milk as a health product; but if someone has, for example, an allergy to cow’s milk, they can have a latte this way. That can only be good.” Cafe owner Karianne Groev seemed happy with the stuff too, although it has been difficult persuading customers to try it.
A clockwork car park
This one is definitely a candidate for the “whose dumb idea was that?” award. The prize for the most bizarre way of running a car park goes to the managers of a multi-storey job in the English industrial city of Stoke-on-Trent. The city council has announced that they will play Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony continuously to drive away homeless people who sleep rough there once the cars have gone. The masterpiece will run on a loop 24 hours a day at the car park for a two-month trial period. The council claims that the symphony will also help to lighten the mood for stressed-out workers and visiting shoppers. And, if successful, the idea will be extended to other areas. Steve Tams, assistant director of environment and transport, said: “Research has shown that playing classical music in public places tends to deter anti-social behavior.”