How many times have you seen one of those vague, slightly inspiring, but wishy-washy vision statements? They’re often found buried in a thick report or framed on a wall, overlaying a sublime photo. Nobody knows quite what they mean, who wrote them, what actions they imply, or why they should care.
Vision is a critically important part of any process of goal attainment or achievement. Without vision, there is little clarity, alignment, or motivation to move toward the desired outcomes. Yet most people and groups do not have a strong sense of what they want to achieve. Forming a good vision doesn’t happen overnight…it evolves with the investment of time and energy needed to make a vision powerful.
What Exactly is a Vision?
A vision is a clear, compelling image or sense of a desired future state. It is created with the intention of being transformed into a future reality. It represents a goal or achievement that motivates people to take action to get them to that future state. If it’s a good vision, it will grab people in the gut, touch them deeply, and move them to action toward the goal represented by the vision. It becomes the living, breathing force behind the actions of an organization. If it’s not a good vision, it will fall flat, fail to motivate and align people, and may even result in cynicism and lower morale in an organization.
What Makes a Vision Powerful?
With all this at stake, an important question for leaders to explore is: “How do we know whether we have a good vision?” Is it like art, where we just know it when we see it? Or is there some way we can look at our situation objectively and understand what’s working well and what’s not?
I find it interesting to look at how diamonds are evaluated. Ultimately what is important is their overall brilliance and beauty, yet it is extremely useful to identify the most important aspects that result in this brilliance and beauty. Diamonds are generally evaluated on four aspects, known as the 4 C’s: Cut, Color, Clarity, and Carat Weight. Each quality has its own scale, and all diamonds are evaluated on these scales to objectively evaluate their brilliance and beauty, and therefore their value.
I propose that we can look at the power or quality of visions in a similar way. Ultimately, what is important is the motivation, alignment, and results they create for people, yet we can identify a set of aspects that create these outcomes. I have found in my work that the most useful distinctions can be distilled into 7 C’s: Clear, Concrete, Compelling, Creative, Consensus, Communicated, and Committed. Each of these aspects can be evaluated on a scale of 0 to 100% quality. 100% is defined at the point at which additional improvement efforts would not be worth their cost.