The vision thing

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The vision thing is irritating. It looks like leading an organisation which achieves great things is not enough. We have to have a vision. We have to be able to lead our people out of the desert and into the Promised Land.

I decided to have a go at the vision thing. I got as far as “I have a dream…” and gave up. My last dream was about a cloud of intergalactic flying teacups. This might inspire some shrinks and amuse the staff. But it probably will not help the organisation achieve its goals.

Visions and visionaries can be dangerous. Mao, Pol Pot, Marx and Hitler all had visions which collectively killed hundreds of millions of people. Some visions take you to the Promised Land, others take you straight back into the desert.

The best leaders I have worked with have had visions, but they have not been visionary. Their visions are very simple. Typically, they work because they show three things:

  • where we are going, and why that is relevant to each person: increasing EPS is not very meaningful to the receptionist.
  • how we will get there, and that getting there is possible
  • that each person in the organisation has a relevant and worthwhile role in helping the organisation get there

This is pretty simple stuff. The simpler it is, the better. In today’s world we suffer a surfeit if choice. The resulting complexity and confusion are luxuries that we can not afford. A good vision creates clarity and helps people at all levels make better decisions. The vision must be simple enough that it can be interpreted and made relevant for shareholders, trustees, staff, suppliers and customers.

The only problem is that simplicity is very difficult to achieve. All I need is asimple dream….

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