A great strategy is a great story. Based on the story of the hero’s journey, in my first article, 3 Essential Elements to Epic Strategy, I introduced how to transform a good business plan into a great strategic direction by developing a story that inspires and motivates stakeholders to make your goals a reality.
In Part 2, we explore the role that your vision plays in your story’s structure.
What is a Vision?
In classic storytelling, the dilemma, the destination, and the journey to the destination are the core structural elements of the story. In strategy development, the vision is the equivalent of the destination – the special world the mythical hero is called upon to manifest. Just as in storyteller’s destination, your vision should set the tone for your epic journey and provide deep motivation for those involved in achieving it. In a way, it should transfer the ‘hero’ persona to all your key stakeholders.
A vision describes, on a high level, the ultimate end state one hopes to create. It should be robust, aspirational and a bit scary. In fact, it may make you feel a bit sheepish to say it out loud because it expresses your deep, idealistic desires for future vision of success. If you have ever thought of these things, you might not have dared to share them. Now it is the time.
Key to a vision is its reach. It needs to stretch you and your organization but not to the point the stretch snaps. Unlike a singular goal or series of specific objectives that make up a plan, your vision should paint a what you hope success to look and feel like when you arrive.
Elements of Your Vision
The elements of your vision should reflect the things you are passionate about achieving.In our years of strategic planning consulting, we have seen a wide variety of visions. They can include many elements and still be powerful, but from my experience I recommend at a minimum you should include:
- Your ideal positioning. This is what you want to be known for; what you want the market, your partners, competitors and customers to think of when they think of you. When identified by individuals outside your organization, how will they refer to you?
- An impact statement. If you have a mission statement, then you have this covered, but many organizations don’t need a mission statement and a vision. Your impact statement is your ‘why.’ It is an indication of the impact you strive to make on your market or those you serve.
- The core of your future business model. How the organization will need to evolve to achieve your vision. In other words, what internal changes will be necessary to deliver the future positioning and have the impact you desire in the future. This could include shifts in the breadth and depth of your offering. It also often defines changes in the competencies needed to run and grow the future organization.
- Key success metrics. You will need to drive execution over time, having specific metrics in your vision will help you determine if you are on track. These metrics often include growth targets in revenue, profits or market presence. But you can also define metrics regarding specific associations important for your brand. You can define metrics in whatever way makes the most sense to your entity and its market, but you need some key success metrics.
How to Create a Vision
For some, visioning is easy; they are natural dreamers. However, for the more pragmatic defining our future destination can be a daunting task. For both the visionaries and the practical, here are my tips for crafting this critical element of your epic strategy, your vision.
First, consider your strategic planning time frame. While your time frame will depend on many factors, the life-stage of your organization will figure prominently. For example, early stage entities should plan no more than three to four years out while larger, more established organizations can stretch their planning horizon to 10 or 15 years. The ideal time frame is far enough into the future that you are cannot be certain about how you will achieve it, but not so far that a dangerous gap forms between the future and where you are today. Your vision has to have some relevance in who you are and what you do now.
Next, you must put yourself or your team in the proper mindset. Suspend disbelief. Turn off your analytical mind and block the limiting language about what is and what is not possible. All great visions start with a fragile, young idea that needs to be protected and stewarded in the early stages. This is the mindset you will need to begin to craft your vision.
Finally, reflect and generate from reflection. Spend time with your idealist self and become reflective about what you want to achieve. Start with these three topics to prime your vision.
Reflect On… What that inspire you? Then, list those things that you would like to replicate.
Reflect On... What you want to have built or achieved by the end of your time frame. List your goals or ideal accomplishments. What do you want your legacy to be?
Reflect On... Your personal goals – what you want to get out of this? For smaller organizations possibly more income from the business or name recognition. In larger organizations, this may be increased brand recognition or recognition of your leadership in taking the organization to a new level.
With your vision defined, you have the second element in creating an epic strategy…up next the final element in the series – your strategic direction.