WHY A VISION?

Because it’s important!

You can open the Oxford dictionary and get this scholastic definition for vision. A vision is “Farsightedness, the thing or idea perceived vividly in the imagination.” Another way of putting it is “keen foresight, or a dream and hope for the future”. Dr. Robin Wentworth, (PhD. industrial psychology) puts forth this definition. “It’s what blows your hair back when you get up and start the day.” These definitions can be boiled down to the same thing, your internal driver, your motivation and dream. Dr. Wentworth’s definition invokes a passionate and dynamic motivation. I like that.

King Solomon of Israel (971 to 931 B.C.), purported to be the wisest man of his time tells us about the importance of a vision. One of his Proverbs reads. “Where there is no vision the people are unruly”. Some translations from the Hebrew use the words “will perish” instead of “are unruly”. (Either way, you get the picture.) His observation and statement holds true today. All one has to do is observe some of the corporate world, governances, or family life, to see the unruliness. There doesn’t appear to be any compatibility or commonality of purpose (vision). Everyone seems to be “doing their own thing” or shall we say, being a bit unruly. Thus, when things go wrong, managers blame employees and employees blame management. School teachers complain how some children lack discipline and aren’t learning, and most corporations don’t pay attention to anything except the bottom line. Governments at all levels seem to continually try to do more with less, but do just the opposite. Family life is often defined better as “lifeless families”. You see, when there is no vision things get unruly. Who pays the price? We all do in one way or another, because we try to “do what seems best in their own eyes”.

Visions – Initiatives – Goals

Vision

Assuming the importance of a vision, a logical question to ask is “What is the difference between visions, objectives, initiatives or goals”? The difference if there is one, lies in the degree of finiteness and time frame. A vision is a little nebulous, and hasn’t any time constraints. One can think of it as cloud like, shapeless and ill defined, but painting a vivid mental image. So, how does one get a vision to be more tangible?

The first thing to do when trying to define your own vision is to write it down! Think about what you’ve written. Edit out superfluous words, and add words to help clarify. Then, repeat the process a couple times. Then ask yourself if what you have written really conveys your mental image. Ask a confidant to read what you’ve written, and explain to you what they think it means. Than do a clarification rewrite. That should give you a pretty good mental image of your vision.

Initatives

Initiatives can be considered as taking the first steps or actions to bring about your vision. They are the strategy or plan which you put in place to materialize the vision. Think of it as the long term sequential steps you take to facilitate bringing the vision into reality. Initiatives are usually prioritizes according to the time it takes for accomplishment. Initiatives become your long range plan. For example a five, ten or twenty year plan.

Goals

Goals are generally specific, and have a time frame associated with them, and they are aligned under each initiative. Goals are generally short term measures which can be accomplished within one or two years, and assist in fulfilling an initiative. Goals are more specific and fluid than initiatives, but are critical. Thus, they need to be monitored and adjusted. As Dr. W. Edwards Denning would say “Plan-Do-Check Act”. (More about that in the Chapter Quality Management/leadership)

Examples

Here are four examples of vision statements (mental pictures). These statements set the tone, galvanized and motivated people to adopt the vision and order their lives accordingly.

1. A grandiose and vivid example is the preamble of the Constitution of the United States. Which reads: “We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

This preamble is longer and more detailed than most vision statements, but it has been our Nation’s guiding vision for over two hundred years. Look at some of the words which may hold different meanings because they have a broad semantic range. For example, form, perfect, union, secure, blessings, welfare, tranquility and liberty. These words are a little nebulous by themselves, but putting them together gives us a mental image (vision), something each of us wants for ourselves and to share with others. Unfortunately, the event that solidified the vision and defined our Nation was the civil war (although no war is ever civil). That war concerned the nation’s vision of unity. The war was a long, hard and a costly lesson because not every person or State wanted to follow the founding vision of a “more perfect union”. Thankfully, the vision and the union prevailed and this nation was formed. If you’re sixty or older, you probably remember the way this vision was caught/taught. We memorized and often recited the preamble in civics class at school and then were taught how to put it into action.

2. Another dramatic vision that transformed a nation was that of Dr. W. Edwards Deming. His vision was to transform the Japanese economy into one of growth via continual improvement. Shortly after World War II, Dr. Deming was sent by the U.S. government to aid in the reconstruction of the Japanese economy. Their international economy prior to the war consisted of mostly inexpensive imitation products. Upon inculcating his vision, principals and practices, Japan has become the third largest world economy, and leaders in quality. We’ll have more to say and take a deeper look into Dr. Deming’s quality improvements, in the ‘chapter’ titled Quality Management/Leadership. Now let’s look at a vision which is less grandiose than the preamble or Dr. Deming’s, but yet a statement that has propelled a consulting engineering company to new heights of quality and excellence.

3. The Anchorage, Alaska consulting engineering firm of USKH was founded in 1973 by Gordon Unwin and Leo Von Scheben. They were the only employees at first and worked out of an old yellow house. None the less, they set down a vision. Currently, the firm has over 200 employees working in seven offices in three different states. USKH is consistently rated by Engineering News Record, as one of the top 200 engineering firms in the nation. Their employees have been taught and have caught the company’s vision. The leaders of USKH put their vision into a set of mission statements, basic values and corporate goals. The corporate goals were proudly displayed in their main office providing a continual reminder to employees and clients of the company’s values. Here is their mission (vision) statement, basic values (initiatives) and corporate goals.

Mission Statement: Our mission is to provide value and quality to our clients by performing superior professional design and planning services on every project we undertake.” *(Note the word
“our” which denotes a common vision and the nebulous words value, quality, superior, professional. All of which when put together form a vivid mental image.

Basic Values: These basic values guide us in accomplishing our mission:

  • Responsiveness to the needs of our clients.
  • Leadership through individual empowerment and team participation
  • Trust in our clients and employees.
  • Honesty in the performance of our services.
  • Fairness in our business practices.
  • Respect for the individual and the community.
  • Enjoyment in the work we do.
  • Service to our communities through our work, resources, and volunteer activities.
  • Commitment to a workplace that challengers each individual to achieve their career goals.
  • Appreciation for our deep roots in Alaska and our corporate history.

Corporate Goals

  • 1. To provide quality work.
  • 2 .To meet the needs of our clients in a professional and service oriented manner.
  • 3.To have a good time doing it.
  • 4.To make a profit.

These corporate goals Established November 1976 by the then four partners.

  • Gordon D. Unwin, P.E.
  • Leo von Scheben, P.E., L.S.
  • Earl D. Korynta, P.E.
  • James A Huettl, AIA

Sounds like a wonderful exciting place to work. How wonderful? Many of their employees, including the firm’s receptionist have been with the company for more than thirty years.

4. A very brief vision but one which has guided Visioneering-ak for a long time, appears on our ‘Welcome’ page.

The unique thing about visions, is we all have one or more of them, which we pursue. However, they will languish and diminish unless they are formalized, shared and worked on by and with others. What is your vision? Have you written it down? Consider those two questions as you would a home work assignment. You may want to review the two definitions presented above. Give it some thought than write yours down so it can be reviewed and modified. Here is a little guidance, if your vision has to do with wealth or position it’s an unworthy goal and not a vision.

We’ll talk more about visions in other chapters, but let’s move along to the Chapter of NEEDS WANTS AND DESIRES’.

The previous chapter was ‘WHY A VISION’.