Importance of Vision
You are probably, by now, tired of reading about the importance of organisational efficiencies in the economic downturn. Whilst such efficiencies are undeniably important, now is the time to turn attention to the bigger picture to ensure you come out of recession ahead of your competition.
Few organisations can afford not to change. Whilst change can, on some levels, be driven by operational policies and procedures, fundamental refocusing of a business requires a different approach.
Much has been written about ways to initiate change. Change is often driven by insecurity and anxiety. So, although harsh, current circumstances provide a leader with greater potential to achieve change than the benign climate prior to the recession.
There are few things more influential in achieving change than an organisation’s vision. A clear vision can stop a transformation effort from descending into a multiplicity of confusing and incompatible projects. And yet, many still dismiss vision as meaningless waffle. Eyes glaze over at the mention of the word.
Speak instead of an image of a possible and desirable future state for your organisation that is in some ways better that what currently exists and it will be hard for any senior executive to deny its importance.
The ability to articulate, communicate and implement a vision is a key skill for today’s leader. This seems, at first, to add to the pressures upon leaders. But do not worry if your vision is not, at first, completely clear or complete. As long as it can provide a path and assurance that constructive change is possible, it can fulfil its purpose. Final formulation of the vision should ultimately be crafted from a combination of hard analytical thought, consultation and, ideally, a little dreaming.
A clear vision can prevent backsliding into yesterday’s dysfunctional routines. It therefore needs to be easy to communicate. Keep it simple. If it is too complicated, it will not be understood. If not understood, it will not be useful. It has been said that you should be able to communicate your vision in no more than five minutes and get a reaction that signifies both understanding and interest.
Some organisations, having formulated their vision, overlook the importance of communication. A one-off speech at an annual employees’ meeting does not cut the mustard. The communication has to be constant and credible. Leaders within the organisation have to behave in a manner which is consistent with the vision. If not, employees become cynical and belief in the vision will fail.
But communication alone is rarely sufficient. Obstacles to change need to be removed. Organisations should examine their own particular obstacles – sometimes they are in people’s heads, sometimes they are real. Work out which they are and deal with them. Make sure there are some short term wins so people don’t give up.
And lastly – don’t declare victory too soon or the status quo will resume!
Anne Compton is Managing Partner of Rickerbys LLP and holds an MBA in Legal Practice from Nottingham Trent University. Rickerbys LLP (www.rickerbys.com) is one of the south west’s leading law firms providing both personal and commercial legal advice. Based in Cheltenham, the firm’s goal is to provide its clients with the best expertise, attention and service available.
© Anne Compton 2010