By Eliakim Thorpe
Peter and Christine are co-owners who’ve now been in business for more than ten years. They have experienced tremendous growth but recently decided to schedule a meeting to discuss the current state of their organization and how they can remain relevant, competitive, and sustainable in an ever-changing economy.
What began as a meeting to discuss the past successes and current state of the organization turned quickly into a dialogue about an organization not simply driven by revenue margins but a company governed by an organizational vision which becomes the living and breathing force behind its every action.
Vision is the tension between what was, what is, and what will be. It reaffirms an organization’s reason for existence, identifies who it serves, and creates products and services to solve a societal or humanitarian problem. A visionary organization lives in two-worlds: one of purpose and one of profit. This type of organization celebrates it past, embraces its present, and is fueled by its future. It is an organization that is not shackled to the past or its traditions, but is willing to abandon organizational norms to reach its organizational destiny.
Peter and Christine concluded that sustainable, long-standing organizations have a well-developed vision that is ahead of its time, along with a powerful plan for change to remain competitive in a fluid and changing business climate.
Visionary organizations have a ‘roadmap to radical change’. Every successful visionary organization realizes that radical change cannot occur unless an enterprise has a roadmap to successfully reach its destination. To become a visionary organization, there are six elements to create a powerful blueprint for change.
Vision is the tension between what was, what is, and what will be. Click To TweetA powerful vision for change must be:
1. Clear: A powerful vision is clear—it creates a mental picture in the mind of your workforce of what it would be like to achieve it. A clearly articulated vision becomes the masterpiece the organization is the painter and the world its canvas. A clear vision uses direct, transparent, straightforward language and meaningful visuals to convey a sense of the desired future state that is easy for the staff to understand and internalize.
2. Compelling: It is important that every organization identifies and articulates a compelling story to ignite change. The story must be able to capture the heart, mind, and soul of its employees. It should create a sense of urgency based upon the changing marketplace and shifting societal winds; not urgency simply based on financial factors or fierce competition. This isn’t simply a matter of showing people poor sales statistics or talking about increased competition. It is a transparent view of a current undesirable state that paints a picture of what would happen if the organization doesn’t change. The story should connect to the soul of the company and its very reason for existence. It should be so compelling that it creates a type of constructive tension in the heart, mind, and soul of its employees to initiate a profound change for growth. The story becomes the catalyst for change. In its essence, a compelling story inspires the whole organization!
3. Concrete: A concrete vision is defined where an organization is skilled in giving form to a formless and shapeless future reality. A concrete vision awakens the five senses of every employee that produces a tangible and substantial reality that is achievable. It is analogous to being a potter actively shaping the clay, molding it, and transforming it into something tangible that the organization can understand. In the end, a concrete vision uses descriptive, present-tense language and visuals to convey a believable future and desired end state of the organization.
4. Communicated: A well-developed vision may begin in the mind of the organizational leader as an abstract idea but turns into a powerfully communicated vision throughout the company so that everyone understands and can articulate where they are going. To effectively communicate a vision requires an established communication infrastructure that has verbal, written, visual, behavioral, and system components that convey and manage the barriers and progress of the vision. Leadership must regularly communicate and reinforce the vision so that momentum is sustained while undergoing this radical organizational change. Visionary organizations don’t simply see the vision; they become the vision
5. Consented: Every vision articulated must have the ability to mobilize the workforce to accept the idea of the leader. Consensus is in summary taking the idea of the one and making it the idea of the many. It is the ability to use persuasive language to create a vision that is inclusive, open, honest, transparent, and mobilizes the workforce to accept the needed organizational changes to remain relevant in today’s business landscape. Consensus creates a shared responsibility, beginning with the leader, but embraced by all levels of the company. The most powerful visions happen when an entire group or organization is mobilized, unified, linked, and of one mind to ensure that the enterprise reaches its goals.
6. Committed: For a vision to become a reality, people throughout the organization must be willing to voluntarily invest their time, talent, and resources. Leadership must not only cast the vision, carry the vision, and support the vision, but the staff must catch the vision to propel the organization forward in a very profound way.
Whatever the business age of your enterprise, organizations must be more than economically sensitive to the changing business landscape. Companies must be consciously aware of the ripple effects that vision creates. When businesses begin the transformation process, they must honestly appraise their current and present state. Does the current state of the organization align with its future goals? Enterprises must understand the reasoning for why it’s necessary to undertake radical change that is more than prioritizing organizational structures, process, products, and profit, but must include and clearly state the imperative of people and communities as being at the center of any visionary activities.
Throughout history, the catalyst for change has always begun with individuals who foresaw the benefit of developing a visionary organization. The development of a visionary organization resulted in inspired employees, new product innovation, higher revenue margins, increased sales, profit increase, greater market competitiveness, stronger organizational culture, and strong organizational outcomes.
Eliakim Thorpe is a sought-after speaker, consultant, thought-leader and entrepreneur, author, and a leading authority on organizational transformation. He is the creator of the T.H.R.I.V.I.N.G. Organization: A New Philosophy to Transform Organizations, which is both a philosophy and a systematic process to help businesses create frameworks to become transformational—internally and externally. As an IT professional, Eliakim has worked with and consulted for Fortune 10 to Fortune 500 companies such as IBM, Whirlpool, and GM