How do you create a shared company vision?

A company's vision must be unreasonable.

This might sound counter intuitive, but if it’s reasonable you can do it today! All you need to do is work a bit harder. If you already have the capability and capacity, how inspiring can that really be for you, your leadership team and your business?

The three words that are equally important are ‘inspire,’ ‘shared’ and ‘vision’. You need a vision, you must share it – not only with your leadership team, but with your whole workforce – and it needs to inspire your people to go for it.

It is 50 years since Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon and it was John F Kennedy who in 1961 committed the nation to achieving it. Remember his words “we do this not because it is easy, but because it is hard”. This vision, or unreasonable dream, was at the time impossible! It forced NASA to think differently and it inspired a nation. NASA figured out it was no longer possible to achieve this vision by working harder or more hours, they needed to move from comfort to stretch and to try new ways of doing things. On 20th July 1969 Apollo 11 did the impossible and touched down on the Lunar surface, with 25 seconds of fuel left!

A vision is one of your company’s decision filters (along with Purpose/ Mission, Values and Strategy). Without a compelling vision how do you know how to set your strategic priorities for the following year? In other words, without a clear destination, all roads will take you there.

In a start-up business, the vision is likely to be in the mind of the founder and probably not written down. When you grow and need to bring more people in, you need to write down and engage your people in it. A vision is for the CEO and the top team to craft and then bring to life for your people. It is then the organisation’s challenge to work out how they will achieve it. As Patrick Lencioni says, it’s about clarity and alignment.

If you need to create a vision from scratch, or to recreate one (as a time-bound vision will need to be recrafted as you approach achievement) give your leadership team the following challenge:

1. It’s ten years from now. You are celebrating the achievement of your vision with the whole company.

2. You are going to deliver a speech to everyone saying how you achieved the vision and what the company did to get there (business growth, clients, partnerships, your people, marketing etc.).

3. Write this speech based on your understanding of what we need to achieve over the coming years and read it out at our next management meeting.

When the team read out their speeches, you will see how ambitious they are, how aligned you all are, the level of detail they have gone into and it will allow you to pull together a vision that you can all buy in to. Your vision cannot be just a financial target. A financial growth target by a given date is fine for the owners and the leadership team, but is unlikely to engage your workforce. So you need both; an emotional, stretching, clear vision for everyone, underpinned by a financial one for your shareholders and leadership team.