I first heard the term "common vision" when I read an excellent article, written by James J. Mapes, on the subject decades ago. The author's words were so powerful that the subject became the cornerstone for my own life's direction--professional and personal. The first 20 years I spent in American business and industry were on "The Lucky System". That is, I got ahead because I was lucky, not because I understood the dynamics of interdependent systems that drive enterprise. |
With the recent trend in downsizing that dumps experienced and older managers for younger, clueless managers, the problem has been magnified. I'm not knocking the young turks, but I am saying that many problems previously solved I see recurring. The best thing today's managers could do would be to acquire a copy of IN SEARCH OF EXCELLENCE by Peters and Waterman. Probably the best example of a poorly run business--in spades--is the federal government. In spite of what they proclaim, there is little or no common vision, only selfish ambition and divisiveness.
Back in the day, like most of my peers, I acquired new skills and honed old ones, but rejected anything that had a "soft" theme. I considered myself to be a vital part of the GDP contributing business machine, not a member of an overgrown nursery. That is, until I read the common vision article. It turned out that the author and I had shared values--those things that drive your own personal constitution.
I had always enjoyed being part of a team with its comfort, support, and shared celebrations. Goodness knows why. I was trained and mentored to be independent, to look out for number one, and to consider coworkers as competition. Partners are a pain in the neck, and get in your way! Best to be a benevolent dictator! Machiavelli said so!
I always rejected that part of my training though I never overtly expressed it for fear of damaging my own career. What a wimp! Anyway, the article hit me like the proverbial ton of bricks. So from that day forward, I lived and managed differently. As my career progressed I found that shared successes were so fulfilling that my whole life became a search to find that feeling over and over again.
Most organizations do not have a vision because they are unaware of the power it produces. Some characterize it as silly, impractical daydreaming with no basis in reality. These folks are in the "if it ain't broke don't fix it" club when they should be thinking "if it ain't perfect, let's make it better". They only desire to maintain the status quo and survive, which they CAN do. What they CANNOT do without a vision is achieve greatness--unless they're lucky. A large contributor to lack of organizational vision is a lack of personal vision by the individuals in the organization. This is not surprising because most people think day-to-day without any thought about their lifetime purpose. Given the rather short duration of that precious gift, we should focus every second on discovering and achieving a personal vision. King Solomon, a reputed wise man, once said that without a vision the people perish. In FORESIGHT FIRST, James J. Mapes wrote, "A vison exceeds importance. It is vital. We either create our own destiny, or we live out someone else's creation. That's the choice."
Vision should not be confused with a company mission statement or goals and objectives people set for themselves. The common vision does not dictate what is to be done by whom according to some timetable. Common vision is a beacon of light in the dark--like a lighthouse at the shore--that shows the proper diection to take. Mission statement and goals support the vision.
A vision is always about doing great things, and it doesn't matter whether or not anyone else believes your personal or common vision. Only belief by you and your associates is required for the seeds of greatness to be sown. A vision includes your bedrock values that are inviolate. It is your personal constitution and advertises what you will contribute.
Here is one company's common vision:
We are committed to be the worldwide technological leader in providing select, profitable products for the benefit of our associates, our company, customers, suppliers, and community.
We'll expand and develop the above vision and what it meant to everyone in that particular company in Part 2.
For what it's worth: In my experience the companies that most understand vision and have the easiest time crafting one are Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) firms, and why not? The nature of their infrastructure requires everyone to succeed or fail together. No we-they, salaried-hourly, union-nonunion BS to put up with.
More to come... Stay tuned.
Gene Myers http://www.strategicpublishinggroup.com/title/AfterHours.html Read AFTER HOURS available on www.amazon.com or www.barnes&noble.com
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