Developing clarity of purpose and aligning future direction

Posted by Roxanne Chugg

How does your organisation define its purpose, vision and values for success?

How well do you truly engage with your stakeholders i.e. Board, Management Team and staff to ensure the purpose, vision and values are not just understood and applied but that these stakeholders contribute to developing a vision that everyone can aspire to, that creates excitement and ensures everyone is working in the same direction?

A vision is a vivid mental image of what you want your business or organisation to be at some point in the future, based on your goals and aspirations. Having a vision will give your business a clear focus, and can act as your compass and stop you heading in the wrong direction.

The best way to formalise and communicate the vision you have for your business is to work with your stakeholders and write a vision statement.

A vision statement captures, in writing, the essence of where you want to take your business your organisation and can inspire you and your staff to reach your goals.

So what do we include in a vision statement?

A vision statement should communicate your long-term goals; it should reflect your view of the world and your place in it as an organisation or business.

It should also answer the fundamental question, 'Where are we going?'. The practical aspect of 'How will we get there?' is usually dealt with in a mission statement.  So vision (where are we going) and mission (how will we get there) then align with values (how will we behave).

How do we write a vision statement?

To write an effective vision statement you should think about what your organisation or business does, and imagines what your business would look like if it became the best possible version of itself.

Ensure you engage your stakeholders to gather their ideas before forming up a draft and checking back with them … is this our vision?  Make sure it:

  • is clear and written in plain English (i.e. no jargon, acronyms or 'business speak')
  • is passionate, powerful and memorable
  • is short and says a lot in a few words
  • is realistic (i.e. in terms of your resources, capabilities and growth potential)
  • describes the best outcome (ideal future state) for your business
  • doesn't use numeric measures of success
  • helps build a picture in people's minds.

Example vision statements

Here are a couple of examples:

  • 'Our vision is to be earth's most customer centric company; to build a place where people can come to find and discover anything they might want to buy online.' (Amazon.com)
  • 'There will be a personal computer on every desk running Microsoft software.' (Microsoft's original vision statement)

How should we use the vision statement?

A vision statement isn't something you write, plaster around your offices, factory, buildings and then forget. You should regularly revisit your vision statement to measure your progress and success. Remember it is your compass; do reflecting on decisions, projects and plans and how they contribute to achieving the vision is a great guide.

It's a good idea to make your business's vision statement visible in the workplace to inspire your staff and remind them of their purpose, for example, by:

  • posting it in staff common areas
  • including it in any code of conduct documents
  • using it as a tool in staff performance reviews.

You can also promote your business's vision statement publicly by displaying it in your business, on your website or using it in marketing material. However, many businesses prefer to create a unique selling proposition as part of their branding and marketing, and  just use their vision statement internally to inspire their people and act as the compass.

How effective is your vision statement at inspiring and guiding?