The “vision thing”: part II

Last year I wrote about how to create a more useful vision statement (here). But vision means different things to different people. So recently, I loved hearing two great presentations that dealt with the importance of vision — they were talking about two completely different ideas. 

A vision statement is really just a tool to be used in creating a great goal or mission for your company. When you have a vision of your customers’ real needs now and in the near future, and important industry and market trends, you can figure out what actions you need to take now.

In other words, by anticipating the near future (vision), you can start executing to win today (mission).

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Quick example: Chick-fil-A

The official mission of one of my favorite brands, Chick-fil-A, is to be the best quick-service restaurant.

That’s pretty simple, and it gives the entire organization something to shoot for. Looking at their bottom line, and their legions of raving fans, it looks like it’s working. Of course, being “the best” is pretty subjective, so I would be tempted to be more specific:

Give our customers such a wonderful experience, from the quality and tastiness of the food, to the service, the surroundings and the value, that our guests can’t wait to tell their friends and come back again.

Before they crafted their mission statement, I wonder what their vision was. I would imagine it was something like this:

For the foreseeable future, people will be going to fast-food restaurants more and more. More moms will be working. Families and individuals will want a place that they trust, that they like, that treats them special, and elevates the entire fast-food experience, even if they’re not spending much money.

A vision like that might have led to their highly successful mission statement.

The vision, according to others

Futurist Scott Klososky gives an excellent presentation in which he talks about “High-Beam Vision,” the ability to see a little further down the road than your competition. In a world that’s changing at an incredible pace, you must be ready to turn on a dime and embrace change. You can read more about Scott’s excellent vision development process here.

At the same time, I saw an equally impressive presentation about vision — and it had nothing to do with the kind of strategic approach I find so important. Dave Hibbard of Dialexis talks about using an individual’s vision as a management tool and a sales tool. Know your customer’s vision, come up with a plan to make it come true, and you have a great advantage in selling or managing. Know your own vision, and you can create a plan. Without your personal vision, how will you know what you’re aiming for?

Hibbard’s presentation is a lot more powerful than my representation of it here. It’s an important idea, but it comes from his sales perspective. Klososky’s perspective is more strategic.

If you’re not paying attention, it can get confusing and lead to problems when dealing with senior management, either internally or for your client.

Know your objective when using the word “vision” or the term “vision statement.” Otherwise they’re just overused, empty words.

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