What role does "vision" have in the modern organisation? Is such a thing still relevant and, if so, who should "own" it? The question of vision has been a bit of a hobby-horse of mine for over a decade now, particularly when I've been asked to help with strategic planning. A discussion on the Institute of Directors group page over at LinkedIn brought the issue to the surface again this week.
I must admit to being a doubter when the wave of books, seminars, consulting engagements promoting the vision and mission statements first flowed across the business community in the 1990s. While considerable money and effort was expended on the creation of some quite wonderful statements, many of which were printed and displayed for all to see, the gains in productivity and business performance were questionable in most cases.
Vision is typically expressed as some aspirational sense of what an organisation seeks to achieve (a big goal, if you will). It addresses "what", a key question that all stakeholders need answered. But people don't get behind things or targets, they get behind causes. It should come as no surprise therefore that vision "leaks", and that staff are naturally sceptical, particularly when vision statements are too ambitious as many are.
Vision alone is not sufficient however. For sustained effort, people need to know "what" and "why". Core purpose is much better, because it addresses both questions. Core purpose incorporates the vision (what) and the underlying driver/cause (why). A good statement of core purpose is succinct, self-evident and realistic. It should be developed by the Board because, ultimately, the Board is responsible for the purpose of the organisation, on behalf of the shareholders. The core purpose should be owned by everyone. Notwithstanding this, the challenge of motivating the people and aligning their effort to move the organisation towards the core purpose is no easy task. I guess that's one reason why good CEOs are paid so much!
Thoughts on corporate purpose, strategy and governance; our place in the world; and, other things that catch my attention.