There is a large part of me that is a doer. I’m not happy each day until I can cross items off my list and feel like I’ve made progress toward a goal. In many ways this is a good thing. It helps me to be productive with my time and make steady progress toward achieving goals.
In fact, my business is often about implementing IT projects for clients. I pride myself on running a consulting company that “gets things done” rather than one of those lofty consulting companies who charge a small fortune only to generate a list of all the things that are wrong, but can’t actually help fix them.
But because I’m so focused on making daily progress sometimes it’s hard for me to step back and look at the big picture. And the reason why the big picture matters on an individual or corporate level is that it helps establish who you are and where you’re ultimately going. These things can sometimes get lost in the details, but they are vitally important especially when you are looking to get a group of people working toward a common goal.
A friend of mine works for Hilton. He could say that his job is to ensure that the beds get made and the dinner gets served to the various people who travel through the O’Hare Hilton. And that’s nice, but it sure sounds like just a job and would make you wonder “what’s the point”?
Instead what if he said, quoting Conrad Hilton, that his job “has been and continues to be [my] responsibility to fill the earth with the light and warmth of hospitality.” Wow! What a difference. Now that’s something worth working for!
Setting a vision for a group helps add meaning for the people that take part in achieving that. People are happier and more driven to work hard when they feel like they are working toward a shared goal and something that brings meaning to their life. It sure sounds a lot better than I’m here to make money or for a company to say that the company exists to make money for partners or shareholders.
Having a vision helps to define a corporate culture, and some of the classics of business literature have agreed that this is the best way to ensure that a business succeeds over the long term. For example, “Built to Last” from Jim Collins talks about how those businesses with a bold mission (BHAG – Big Hairy Audacious Goals) and cult-like culture do much better than those that just focus on profits:
Profitability is a necessary condition for existence and a means to more important ends, but it is not the end in itself for many of the visionary companies. Profit is like oxygen, food, water, and blood for the body; they are not the point of life, but without them, there is no life. …Highly visionary companies often use bold missions–what we prefer to call BHAGs (pronounced bee-hags, short for “Big Hairy Audacious Goals”)–as a particularly powerful mechanism to stimulate progress. -Built to Last, Jim Collins
Take a look at some vision/mission statements from famous companies to get a feel for what I’m talking about:
- Facebook: Facebook is a social utility that helps people communicate more efficiently with their friends, family and coworkers. The company develops technologies that facilitate the sharing of information through the social graph, the digital mapping of people’s real-world social connections. Anyone can sign up for Facebook and interact with the people they know in a trusted environment.
- Google: Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful
- Amazon.com: seeks to be the world’s most customer-centric company, where customers can find and discover anything they may want to buy online at a great price.
- Mcdonalds: McDonald’s vision is to be the world’s best quick service restaurant experience. Being the best means providing outstanding quality, service, cleanliness, and value, so that we make every customer in every restaurant smile.
I think the key to the vision is to come up with something inspiring, unique but not trite. Some corporations just go off to an executive retreat and throw a bunch of fancy words together without really identifying the unique DNA of their company. In my mind, that is key to the vision. In other words, define what makes your group special.
All of this has led me to begin developing a vision for my company. Otherwise how can I or my employees really know where we’re going?
We are limited, not by our abilities, but by our vision. -Anonymous