Originally Published on ChiefOutsiders.com

Written by Tom McCrary, a CMO with Chief Outsiders, specializing in marketing and Business Strategy

Not too long ago, there was an exchange on Twitter between Tom Peters and others debating Vision vs. Excellence. Rather than thinking about this as an either/or proposition, a third path – Vision with Excellence – will create the greatest value for your organization.  As stated in a Japanese proverb – “Vision without action is a daydream.  Action without vision is a nightmare.”  Success requires both.

Having a clear Vision of the future you want to create, taking the necessary steps to activate it and exhibiting the behaviors needed to make things happen are a powerful formula for driving growth and prosperity for your business.  The following are steps that you can take to leverage visioning to drive value in your organization.

Create and Clarify Your Vision

Most Founders and CEOs started or joined their companies with an idea or dream about what they wanted to create.  The challenge is often getting clear about the future that you want to create and expressing that future in a way that everyone in your organization understands. Making the effort to clarify and clearly articulate your Vision is a powerful way to align your organization and provide guidance about the path forward together.

I find Zingerman’s Visioning process to be an especially effective approach to create a vision.  It is important that your narrative be written in the present tense for a specific future point in time, one that describes your preferred future in detail.  Here is an Inc. magazine article that will introduce you to Zingerman’s process –Creating a Company Vision.

Identify the Strategic Gaps

Once you are clear about where you want to go, it is essential to identify the strategic gaps between the future you envision and today’s reality.  Specifically, it is important to free yourself from the confines of what you know about your current capabilities and begin thinking about the gaps from a future-based holistic view – a Systems Thinking perspective.  In a recent article in the Stanford Social Innovation Review – The Dawn of System Leadership – the authors identified three core capabilities of Systems Leaders:

  1. The ability to see the larger system
  2. Encouragement of reflection and more generative conversations
  3. A shift of the collective focus from reactive problem solving to co-creating the future

Through moving your organization into a new conversation about the future you will create together, you harness the best thinking and creativity of everyone in your company.  Once you have deliberately identified the gaps between your current reality and the future you envision, it is time to organize for action.

Take Action (with “Excellence”) to Realize Your Future

The next step is designing a structure of accountability and an approach to doing the work required to close the gap between your Vision and your current reality.  Organizing for success, establishing a clear purpose and set of outcomes for each gap and regularly reporting on and celebrating progress are critical to ongoing success.  Transparency and collaborative communication are additional keys to building and maintaining alignment and momentum in generating the value that your new future will bring to you and your organization.  There are many tools available to help you get into action, including the one outlined in Gino Wickman’s book –Traction (Introducing EOS – the Entrepreneurial Operating System) among others.

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