Shared Vision : A Common Dream
Updated: Sep 11, 2019
“If any one idea about leadership has inspired organizations for thousands of years, it's the capacity to hold a shared picture of the future we seek to create.” - Peter Senge, The Fifth Discipline, 1990.
American system scientist and author of The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization defines a company’s shared vision as the “picture of the future that foster genuine commitment and enrollment rather than compliance.” He continues to describe it as a “set of principles and guiding practices” aiming to move leaders and team members to work on a common goal. A shared vision, in simpler terms, would define the journey of purpose a company sets to guide leaders and teams for reaching real-world results.
Business management expert and author Jim Collins uses the concept of Big Hairy Audacious Goals (short BHAGs) “as a particularly powerful mechanism to stimulate progress” within a company. Jim Collins explains, that in order to create a shared vision within a company, a key element of a BHAG is setting clear, compelling and realistic goals that serve “as a unifying focal point of effort.” For Collins, a BHAG engages people, giving them a sense of purpose to reach a common ambition. In short, BHAG or a “shared vision” can be understood as the big picture of every company and the fuel that moves every employee.
Collins idea of a “good” BHAG or shared vision is built on two major components: core ideology and envisioned future. While Collins core ideology defines “what we stand for and why we exist”, envisioned future explains “what we aspire to become, to achieve, to create.” This is where companies often fail when defining their shared vision. Kenny Graham’s article in the Harvard Business Review states that a company meaning of “shared vision” and vision statement is not to be confused with its mission. While a vision best describes the picture of the future the company aspires, in order words, the desired position; a mission defines a company's methods and approaches in achieving its vision of the future. Both, however, derive from having a common goal and a sense of purpose.
As a best practice example of a compelling vision, based on Jim Collins’s BHAGS concept and definition of shared value, one can address to brands like Hewlett-Packard and Johnson&Johnson. He explains the secret in a good BHAG or companies shared value, is “to work from the individual to the organization.” Both company leaders and team member should align in their understanding of the common goal they are working for. According to the publication on becoming a leader who inspires by the Foundation of John Wiley & Sons, a corporation’s shared vision in leadership should also align with the value scheme of its employees.
Some approaches taken by the leadership when creating a compelling vision is creating a common understanding and meaning of the shared vision. Asking employees what they understand under the companies main goal and giving employees the opportunity to define their own “shared vision meaning”, assures all team member pursue a common objective.
When it comes to building a vision statement, the leaderships’ challenge is bringing a common vision to live. Setting goals and is not enough, leaders need to choose their word wisely in order awaken and motivate employee engagement. Having a shared vision definition within the company helps employees understand what they strive for.
An additional challenge businesses face is maintaining the vision alive. According to Kouzes and Barry’s 2009 research on leadership and shared vision, the second highest requirement from employees of a leader is forward-looking and can inspire a shared vision of the future. What separates great leaders from individual collaborators is the tendency of investing time envisioning and creating a long term shared vision.
While providing the meaning of a shared vision within the company is important, measuring results and tracking progress is equally important. Having evidence-based and best practice examples within the company gives employees the abilities to visualize new ideas and opens up spaces for no possibilities. Once a common goal is set, leaders need to work in transmitting the idea, among their target audience and consumers as well.
In order to truly motivate employees to work on a common vision, companies need to clarify their core goals and work on aligning shared values to meet those of their employees. Button line, building a shared vision requires time and effort. Nonetheless, Allmende believes that infusing a clear shared vision, and core purpose enabled their companies to stand out as an employer brand capable of attracting top talent.
We can help you create a shared vision that ralies all the stakeholders within your ecosystem from employees, partners, and even customers. Reach out to learn more.