For many years now, I’ve approached leader, team, and organization planning as starting with a vision which I define as “a clear, desired end-state.” A vision is not an aspirational, overarching general statement of focus. We all know the famous quote by George Harrison’s song Any Road—
If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.
Once your vision is clear, you can develop alternative strategies to achieve that end-state, hopefully settling on the strategy that takes advantage of your strengths—and a strategy that will help you “win against the competition” or competing interests.
The Problem With Developing A Vision
Besides the issue with what one really means when saying “vision,” there are at least three key challenges in the development process:
- Getting clear is tough, requiring rigor thinking—both forward and deep thinking.
- Working with the inherent uncertainty of the future—creating alternative future states and targeting the most desirable one.
- Resisting the inclination to back into a future vision from the past or current state.
This work takes time. The leader has to take the time to think. Colleagues or the team have to take the time to think. Everyone these days is time starved, whether self-inflicted or cultural. We just have to make the time (start by skipping two meetings for which you are not essential).
How To Think About Strategy
OK, I’m not a strategy consultant, so this advice may seem simple to you if you have lots of strategic planning background. But, here are the very basic, foundational questions to ask.
- What are the alternative ways to reach the vision?
- What are my (or my team’s or organization’) strengths and vulnerabilities (i.e., weaknesses that create impediments)?
- How do I/we win against the competition?
Six questions to guide your thinking. Time required, by you and others.
Lastly, and maybe obvious, the reward of creating a truly remarkable result is worth the effort. The process is actually exciting, and the work is much easier when grounded is a clear, desired end-state and a way to get there.