Setting the Foundation: Defining Your Vision
Vision needs to be done well and have an explicit purpose or not be done at all. There is no criticism from me if you decide not to set a vision. Here is how I define vision:
A Vision evokes bold imagery to motivate the reader by narrating what the world looks like if an organization succeeds in its mission.
Vision is difficult to articulate especially when an organization is in flux. It is rare for a leader to confidently articulate a vision when the road has just begun or when things like product, go to market or market timing are on soft footings.
What is the purpose of the vision? Practically speaking, a vision statement helps clarify to everyone in the organization the intent of every decision and every piece of work. A vision statement can be used to contest decisions such that they can be better prioritized or defined to serve the ultimate mission of the organization. Most importantly, though, the vision is meant to motivate.
Vision is the only part of the Foundation that I would call a narrative. While vision statements tend to be pithy, I believe this is the wrong end goal. You should aspire to expound as much as possible into what that world looks like. This is a chance to write a manifesto, if the span of your organization warrants, and clearly describe the world your team is creating. Every piece of your mission and core work should be touched on and contribute to the vision narrative.
A vision statement is often a solo act with a single voice - one person on the team, with the clearest ability to articulate the purpose of the organization should be in charge of drafting the vision. Others in the organization should react and push back and share their own thoughts on the vision of the organization, but ultimately it should be synthesized by one person.
Are you ready to set a vision today? If you aren't ready yet, thats fine. Consider starting small: What about a 1-year vision? Or a 5-year? Vision statements can be helpful even if they aren't a long manifesto set 20 years in the future, They can be used to turn OKR or other goal frameworks into a digestible narratives that can paint the picture for the team: if we achieve everything we plan to achieve this year, what will that look like? It's the artists rendering of a far away planet years before a space probe arrives.
A great Vision is bonus points in your Foundation. It is not necessary to align your organization, but it can serve as the binding that holds everything together or as a catalyst to attract and retain top talent. If you do create a Vision, it should be the last thing you do and it should only be shared broadly if you feel that it is compelling and motivating. If you have something that ties it all together and is compelling, than make it a big deal; call an all hands to talk about the constituent parts of the Foundation and at the end, share the Vision: a story, set in the future, of how this team succeeded and how the world is better for that. Do this annually. Put them in little hard cover books. Make your Vision seem real, like history already written.
This is the second post in a series covering the foundational statements of an organization, including the Mission, Vision, Core Work and Values. These posts are living documents and are expected to be edited, refined and expounded over time. You can bookmark the Foundation blog post to view the entire series.