by: Mark Wardell
Strategic planning is one of the most powerful tools available to today’s managers. Simply put, it is the process of deciding where your business intends to go, and how it is going to get there. In other words, it is the concept of working in the present, with a constant eye on the future. It’s a simple concept, but its impact can be dramatic.
Peter Legge is the president and publisher of Canada Wide Magazines & Communications. In a recent conversation, I asked Peter how he is able to give over 100 lectures a year, author numerous books, volunteer for his church and community, play golf, spend time with his family, and still find time to run Western Canada’s largest publishing company. His answer was straightforward, yet insightful. He said, “I have a fabulous staff who understand my vision and who are empowered to make independent decisions based upon that vision.”
Great companies are made up of great people, but even great people need to know where they are headed if they are expected to make practical decisions. A clear vision and a little planning can go a long way towards helping people link their personal activities with their company’s goals, transforming a group of individuals into a unified team.
This concept is not new by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s amazing how many businesses fail to take full advantage of its potential. They send their executives off on a weekend retreat to come up with a corporate Vision Statement, proudly post it on the wall in their lobby, and then go back to business as usual. Why? Because a brand new shiny Vision Statement is, by itself, worth little more than the paper it’s written on. Its true value stems from the work that goes into its creation and from the way it is used after it’s written, not from the statement itself. So when a company develops a Vision Statement simply because it seems like the right thing to do, it rarely adds value. In fact, a half-hearted Vision Statement can even have a negative impact on an organization. At best, it’s seen as just another time waster.
On the other hand, a well thought out vision can point your organization in the right direction. Just like a sports team can rally its players around the vision of becoming national champions, your corporate vision can become the focal point around which your entire company can rally. Of course you and your managers must walk your talk. If you try to “sell” your vision to your staff without truly buying into it yourself, it will inevitably be viewed with cynicism. But if you stay the course, your results will be more than worth it.
So how do you go about developing a Vision Statement that actually works? The answer begins with your strategic plan. An effective Vision Statement is really just a concise representation of your strategic plan. So start with your plan, it’s what breaths life into your Vision Statement. Think about the kind of growth you’re looking for, the organizational structure that will be most productive, the marketing position you’d like to occupy, and so forth. Decide where you’d like to be 5 years from now and write it down. It’s important to document this information because the process of documentation breeds clarity. I’m not talking about writing a novel here. A few pages of organized thoughts will do, but make sure you get a clear and compelling picture of your future first.
Make sure your vision is large enough to be inspirational. Inspiration leads to motivation and motivation leads to action. People can’t get excited if there’s nothing to get excited about. If you want your staff to change their working habits, you’ve got to give them a reason. Offering work that has meaning and purpose is a great place to start. A well crafted Vision Statement can become a rallying point for your entire organization. So get people involved, get people committed, and start working strategically.
By Mark Wardell