Picking up on my discussion from August, I wanted to add to my list of critical factors required to ensure successful strategy execution. I’ve already talked about the importance of leadership, making the case for change, and accountability. I want to add “establishing a vision that everyone works toward” to the list.
This vision needs to be set by leadership. After all, that is a big part of what leadership is all about, right? And, we always hear talk in the press about so and so’s “visionary leadership.”
The Vision Should Be Long Term
The vision should not be a state that is attainable in the near future. It should be a statement about what the organization believes is possible in the long term if everyone works together. It should be galvanizing and motivating. The classic example is President Kennedy’s 1961 speech before a joint session of Congress setting the vision for U.S. space exploration:
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. No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important for the long-range exploration of space; and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish.
In these two sentences, Kennedy expertly set out his vision for U.S. space exploration:
- He set a longer-term timeframe—nine years in this case.
- He set a clear vision so everyone understood it—land a man on the moon and return him safely.
- He didn’t sugar-coat it: No project “will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish,” he said.
- He made sure everyone knew about it.
- It is measurable, meaning we will know whether we achieve it or not.
So, like Kennedy’s, your organization’s vision should be a long-term goal that your strategy will help achieve. A key here is to remember that a vision is not a strategy and a strategy is not a vision. Your strategy is a means to achieving your vision.
Make sure everyone clearly understands your vision. Kennedy’s is pretty straightforward: Get man on moon, bring back safely.
Your Vision Can Be Bigger Than Your Organization
One other aspect of an organizational vision is that it can paint a picture of how your organization creates a better world. Kennedy’s was about catching up to and passing the Soviets to give the American people confidence that we were stronger than them.
Uber’s CEO Travis Kalanick’s vision is similar: “Imagine a city where traffic speeds along smoothly and quietly, even at rush hour – this is my dream.” It is a vision to which Uber can be a major contributor, if not the sole contributor, even though it is bigger than the organization itself.
Finally, stick to your vision. Since it is long term, your organization can’t be changing your vision every few years if it looks like you won’t achieve it. It is hard to stay focused on a moving target.