A vision statement is something all organisations want to create, yet very few do well.
I’m sure we’ve all been in workshops to create ‘vision statements’. What can often begin as high energy brainstorming sessions, end up with people agonising over which words to choose. When this happens, some simple tests can kick-start us out of frustration and help us refine and select a vision statement that works.
Before we look at the 7 rules, how about a dose of inspiration from some example vision statements.
Example vision statements
Nike: “To bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete* in the world” (*If you have a body, you are an athlete)
Amazon: “Be the earth’s most customer centric company; to build a place where people can come to find and discover anything they might want to buy online.”
Henry Ford (1909): “I’m going to democratize the automobile.”
Microsoft: “A computer on every desk and in every home.”
World Vision: “For every child, life in all its fullness; Our prayer for every heart, the will to make it so.”
Charity: water: “We can end the water crisis in our lifetime by ensuring that every person on the planet has access to life’s most basic need — clean drinking water.”
Creative Commons: “Our vision is nothing less than realizing the full potential of the Internet — universal access to research and education, full participation in culture — to drive a new era of development, growth, and productivity.”
The 7 rules of a Vision Statement that lasts
I think you and I agree that a well formed vision statement is powerful thing. All of the examples above adhere to these 7 rules for the organisations they represent.
- Inspirational: a great vision statement inspires and moves us. It is a motivational force that compels action. You recognise a great vision statement when you find it difficult not to be inspired.
- Challenging: the best vision statements challenge us to become better. In this way, a vision statement requires us to stretch ourselves in pursuit of the vision we seek to achieve. The vision is not an ‘easy target’; it is something that if achieved- would represent a sense of pride and fulfillment.
- Achievable: a vision must not be so far-fetched that is outside of our reach. It must be conceivably possible, though not probable without additional effort. Consider John F Kennedy’s famous words “We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things. Not because they are easy, but because they are hard.”
- Collective: to be meaningful the vision statement must be shared by all who take action toward it. It is not something that can be crafted by a select few and imposed on others. Because of this, creating vision statements through collaboration is always encouraged. This gives the best chance of allowing others to participate and share the vision.
- Preferred: great vision statements represent a ‘preferred future’. Despite the many paths we could take, the particular vision described represents the one we aspire to most. It is one which provides the greatest benefit to our stakeholders (whether people, businesses or organisations).
- Aligning: the best vision statements align people from individual needs toward a common understanding of the ultimate goal. At times of disagreement, strong visions remind us to place our differences aside, and orient ourselves toward a common purpose.
- Clear: the best vision statements are worded in clear, concise language that can be understood by all. This also means avoiding words that are overused or have little meaning.