Our Vision - $$$$$$$$$ In our last post, we examined vision statements from Fortune 500 companies and, with the help of A Study of the 2005 Fortune 500 Vision Statements by Bart Kasowski and Louis Jacques Filion, we discovered that only 11% have “real” vision statements. As with the mission statement, few companies really get it.

Dr. Mike Armour of Leader Perfect has written about powerful vision statements – vision statements that inspire, direct and motivate people. Does yours? Does it inspire you? Well, what makes a vision statement powerful?

Kasowski and Filion state that a vision statement is:

  • Future looking
  • Identifies a market space
  • Specific and realizable
  • Involves change

Dr. Armour insists that vision statements come in two varieties – they focus on what the organization:

  • Wants to achieve, or
  • What their reputation will be

Just addressing the above will probably give you a better than average vision statement. But powerful? I don’t think so.

What people want to know is the WHY they should do business with you. This is a secret that great orator use. Most speeches are about what and who, occasionally how, but rarely about why. Yet WHY is the most powerful motivator. Watch Martin Luther King, Jr’s “I Have a Dream” speech. And the Declaration of Independence didn’t start by listing the grievances of the colonists but with the statement that “all men are created equal.” The WHY is important.

How to write a vision statement

So let’s focus on actually writing a vision statement!

Just stop for a moment, close your eyes, relax and imagine its 40 years in the future or after your death. Visualize an employee and customer of your company (yes, it still exists and has become a Fortune 500 company) are talking. What do you want the employee saying to the customer about your company? What are the core values that represent what the company has become? How does the customer finish the statement, “I like dealing with your company because…”

This exercise is what happens in the mind of everyone that sees or hears your vision statement. And it will happen in an instant. Therefore your vision statement will have to

  • Align with your core values – strengthening and clarifying purpose and culture
  • Be achievable, just not right now (forward looking)
  • Appeal to the heart
  • Become the property of participants (employees, customers, supplies, owners)

There are a few things NOT to do

  • Don’t appeal to negative emotions, i.e., greed, envy, hatred – appeal to uplifting emotions, i.e., improving, compassion, love
  • Don’t focus on what or how you do what you do – focus on the result for the customer or society
  • Don’t restrict who can participate in the vision

Now I can’t give you a fill-in-the-blank formula for a great vision statement – although I once wrote a computer program that generated poetry. It will take some effort, so here are some steps to take:

  1. List what your core values are.
  2. Think of the worst situations in your business and describe what your core values would cause you to do.
  3. Take all the results of #2 and describe them in one sentence.
  4. Rewrite that sentence so it reflects the above guidelines

Easy!

The truth is that you already have a vision in your head – all you have to do is find it and articulate it so others can “see” it as well as you do.

“Leadership fails when it concentrates on sheer survival.” – Philip Selznik

A physicist by trade, author by choice, a born teacher, a retired veteran, and an adamant problem solver, Frank has helped the White House, federal agencies, military offices, historical museums, manufacturers, and over 250 technology startups get stuff done, communicate effectively, and find practical solutions that work for them. In his spare time, he makes sawdust and watches Godzilla movies.