To say my dear grandfather is a “serial planner” is something of an understatement. A high-school math teacher and slide-rule expert, his love of details, structure and discipline is legendary. Whenever he travels anywhere, friends and family receive copies of a detailed itinerary well in advance, carefully hand-printed on a pristine sheet of – you guessed it – graph paper.
As a wisecracking teen, I once asked Pop if he didn’t think all that planning was a waste of time.
“Haven’t you ever wanted to just point your car to the East and start driving?” I wondered.
“Sure I have,” he said. “But at my age driving isn’t as fun as you kids think it is. If I don’t know where I’m going and how I’m going to get there, how in Sam Hill will I know when I’ve arrived?”
Did I mention Pop was a really smart man? I could write thousands of articles and deliver hundreds of speeches and still fail to give business owners better advice than that.
You may recall that my first article briefly introduced readers to the Six Key Components™ of a well-run business – Vision, People, Data, Issues, Process, and Traction. In this piece I’d like to build on my grandfather’s advice and describe Vision in more detail. Put simply, a company’s vision is crystal clear when everyone in the organization knows where the company is going and how it’s going to get there. With everyone headed in the same direction, you will get more done and enjoy the ride.
This is hardly rocket science. But if almost everyone knows a clear vision is important, why do so few companies clearly articulate that vision and get everyone in the organization focused on making it a reality? Ask an entrepreneur why everyone on the team doesn’t seem to share a common vision and you’re likely to get one of four answers:
- “It’s not important”
- “We don’t have time”
- “Nobody else needs to know”
- “You’re wrong – we ABSOLUTELY share the same vision”
Entrepreneurs who don’t think vision is important or won’t spend time on it are more common than you may think. Uncertainty and risk are everywhere when you start a business. Early stage entrepreneurs who are successful without being certain where they’re going often come to believe that planning and strategy are a waste of time at best. They can also feel that being nimble and flexible are more important than having a clear plan.
Some leaders feel employees should row hard no matter where the boat is pointed. They find all this talk about vision symptomatic of the problem with generations X and Y. “When my boss gave me a job to do, I did it,” they think. While that may be true, it is also true that the winning teams from any generation are able to set aside their own needs to contribute to a larger goal. If you want commitment, accountability and discipline, you must have a clear and compelling vision that can be shared with everyone on your team.
The last answer is also quite common. “If my organization’s vision is clear to me,” the owner surmises, “It’s certainly clear to the people around me.” But they’re often wrong. In surveys our leadership teams complete before working with us to implement the Entrepreneurial Operating System® (EOS®), owners and CEOs often give the company much higher marks for clarity of vision than the other members of the leadership team. When we discuss these results in a session, the teams often acknowledge that the gap would be even larger if we surveyed the rank and file. Once your vision is clear, it’s imperative that you share it often – remember that people may have to hear things seven times to hear them for the first time.
Whatever the reason, not having a clear vision shared by everyone in your organization likely means you’re not performing at your best. If you’d like to get more from your business, work with your leadership team to craft a simple, clear vision for your organization. You don’t need a 3-month project to produce a 100-page strategic plan – our teams work together over no more than two days to answer 8 important questions on a two-page document called the Vision/Traction Organizer™.
Whatever method you use, what’s important is that everyone on the leadership team is 100% on the same page with where the company’s going and how it’s going to get there. Once you’re aligned at the top, you can share that vision with everyone in the organization and get them headed in the same direction, as well.
Henry Miller once said, “One’s destination is never a place but rather a new way of looking at things.” Consider giving your company a new, clearer vision. Like my grandfather, when everyone is working together towards a common destination you will cover more ground, have more fun on your journey, and clearly know when you’ve arrived.
About the Author
Mike Paton has been helping entrepreneurs get more of what they want from their companies for more than 20 years. He works with owners and leadership teams to implement the Entrepreneurial Operating System® (EOS®), a proven process for clarifying, simplifying and achieving success in growth-oriented organizations. Learn more at www.eosworldwide.com or contact Mike directly.