Have Visions become Boring?
It would probably be more correct to say that visions have mostly always been boring!
The academics tell us that the purpose of a vision is to provide direction, to create enthusiasm, energy, and creativity! It must generate so much excitement that the employees of the organisation will run into the future, drooling and panting!
I find Guy Kawasaki’s book on starting up a company (“The Art of the Start”) a refreshing piece of work. He actually states the following, using a mission statement as a substitute for a vision:
“Forget mission statements; theyʼre long, boring, and irrelevant. No one can ever remember them—much less implement them. Instead, take your meaning and make a mantra out of it. This will set your entire team on the right course. Crafting a mission statement is usually one of the first steps entrepreneurs undertake. Unfortunately, this process is usually a painful and frustrating experience that results in exceptional mediocrity.”
For Starbucks he identified the mantra (which has an internal purpose, in contrast to the tagline, which has an external one) as follows: “Rewarding everyday moments.” I love the simplicity and power of these three words!
I by no means want to suggest that we throw out the vision or mission statement of the organisation as something that has become irrelevant. I do want to suggest that we have a long and hard look at what passes for a vision or mission statement.
Because, what do we get?
Organisations strive to be the leading provider of this or that! They want to be the global leader in their industry. All of them want to be the global leader, or the best in their country!
I refer to this as the hillbilly school of visions! It is like kissing your sister! Probably even more boring! And I can assure you your employees find it as stimulating as doing exactly that.
If you need to have a vision, please have some creativity and develop a vision that will truly do what it is supposed to do. Stimulate the people in your organisation to be energetic and enthusiastic! To stay the course!
Pick ‘n Pay of South Africa has a mission statement in the place of a vision that states: “We serve. With our hearts we create a great place to be. With our minds we create an excellent place to shop!” This speaks to me much more than being the leading provider of some or other product or service!
Shoprite also has a mission statement (they call it their guiding mission) which is to “be the consumers’ preferred shopping destination, by retailing food and non-food products at the lowest prices from conveniently located outlets in an environment that is conducive to shopping”. As a vision I have my reservations about this. They do state that it is their philosophy. One can therefore probably forgive them. Interestingly enough, the company’s actions do reflect an enthusiasm and energy that belies the somewhat drab vision.
The global coffee company, Starbucks, has been on a journey of development as far as their vision is concerned. Their mission statement used to be the following: “Establish Starbucks as the premier purveyor of the finest coffee in the world while maintaining our uncompromising principles while we grow.” This also smacks of hillbilly tendencies!
Starbucks‘ current mission statement is as follows: “Our mission: to inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup and one neighbourhood at a time.” Personally I think this is brilliant! This is not the traditional vision of the hillbilly school we stumble across. Do yourself a favour and read the rest of their mission statement. It makes for great reading. This is an example any academic can feel comfortable about using, even in an MBA class!
The message Starbucks teaches us? It is not where you start, but where you end that is important.
Rest assured. When your vision is boring and uninspiring, it says a lot about the people in it. Do you want to be stereotyped as such?
Most employees are not inspired by their company’s vision and mission statements. They only see in the mission statement something that will benefit the shareholders or even clients. There is nothing in it for themselves. People always wants to know: “what’s in it for me?”
Also most visions are in language that are so complex, that nobody really understands what it means. We need to get back to simple language that people can buy into.
Hi Johan, I agree with you. Although organisations are quick to say that people are their most important asset, they tend to ignore this asset when it comes to issues such as a vision or mission statement. And then they wonder why people do their own thing!
In terms of the complexity, I also agree. We tend to forget the Miller’s Law, which puts a limit on the number of things we can remember! The end result is a vision that is impossible to internalise!
Johan, we both come from a “thud” factor background… Recently I’ve come to the conclusion that the “written” part is not as important as the “spoken” and “illustrated” part, especially if you are working in a country where very few of your employees can understand English, nevermind read it! This is something I’d love to discuss over a cup of coffee, or a glass of red wine… one day!
I can imagine the difficulty of dealing with a group of employees that struggle to understand what you are telling them. Therefore it makes it that much more important to ensure that they understand what the vision is, and incorporate whatever it takes to create enthusiasm and passion.
A cup of coffee will do greatly. I am in Qatar in June on my way to Europe. Will liaise to see whether we can’t meet!