In a previous article I discussed the difference between a Vision Statement and a Mission Statement. These two statements are critical to a good strategic plan, so in the next two articles I'll go into more depth about how to create these statements. There are many sources available to instruct you on the components of a strategic plan and they all have good points; however, many of them do not include both vision and mission statements, or they combine the two. Experience has taught me that these must be separate statements and they are both vitally, and equally, important.
In my article on Vision Statements, I cited Dr. Martin Luther King's famous "I have a dream..." speech. I mention it again because it is one of the most outstanding examples of vision in American history. King saw what needed to be done and his speech clearly illustrated that vision. He knew what the mission was, but so did many others. What set him apart as a major leader in the civil rights movement was his vision of what should be. He had a dream, he was passionate about that dream, and he was able to articulate his dream to the masses.
That's what separates great leaders from the rest -- the ability to dream, to have a vision of what can be.
The Vision Statement is the sole property of the leader. He or she has ultimate responsibility for the success or failure of the organization and may even have a significant financial stake in that success. Many in the organization may have a vision, but it is the leader's vision that sets the tone and is the basis for everything else. If you are the leader, the Vision Statement is yours alone and you must give serious thought to what the statement will say; it will provide overarching guidance for everything that happens in the organization.
A Vision Statement clearly states the senior leader's vision for where he or she wants the organization to go. There is no set formula for a Vision Statement but it should be short and succinct. It expresses the leader's desire to not only be successful in the specific enterprise, but also to lead the organization in a specific way. One of the best examples of a Vision Statement was President John F. Kennedy's statement during the 1961 State of the Union address when he said, "First I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth." Though space exploration no longer garners the headlines of that day, the very thought of a manned mission to the moon and back in 1961 was fantastic. That was a vision!
To create your vision statement, start by answering these questions:
1. When you moved to this level of leadership, what did you want to do? Did you say, "Hey, now I can...?"
2. What aspects of your organization and your position in it are vitally important to you?
3. What do you want your organization to do? Don't get confused with the mission statement to come later. State your dream. If there was nothing in your way, what would your organization be doing?
4. Is there something in particular that excites your core beliefs that you want to consider when making decisions; something you're passionate about? For example, perhaps you strongly believe your organization can become more energy efficient to reduce use of petroleum energy sources.
All these things together make up your vision statement. Give this some serious thought and don't accept the first thing you write down! Does your Vision Statement sound slightly fantastic? If not, try again. When you present your leadership team with a Vision Statement that makes them say, "Wow!" you have set the correct tone. You want your team to understand that you're reaching for the stars and you want them to reach with you. You're on the way to a great strategic plan.
When you have created your vision statement, don't keep it a secret! Let everyone know your vision. You won't get there by yourself but others can't help you accomplish what they don't know you're striving for.
So what is your vision? Your dream? Does your organization know?