Having a vision for the future of your organization, a big idea, a grand goal! It is hard to argue against the importance of these things when it comes to inspirational management and leadership and to the success and continued relevance of most organizations.
The problem is that all three of these things begin as THEORIES. That is, we believe in theory that they are the answer to something but will not know until we implement them and assess the results. Many a vision and big idea has faded away in the face of PRACTICAL REALITIES that have rendered their achievement impossible.
For managers who wish to lead their organizations in new directions, it is vital that they maintain some semblance of balance between their vision for a better tomorrow and the practical requirements for getting from here to there. And achieving the balance I have in mind can, I believe, be greatly facilitated by keeping the following four ingredients constantly in mind.
The best visions or big ideas are those that both address an obvious problem, challenge, or organizational need and are realistically achievable in their author’s management lifetime. It is simple common sense to initially consider the readiness of an organization and its workforce to take the various implementation steps any vision will require. Implementing almost any vision or new direction will require a certain set of pre-conditions if it is to succeed. Knowing what these pre-conditions are and being reasonably certain that they exist is the essence of being real.
The simple fact that the vision sounds terrific and would be ideal, is not the same as its inevitable realization. Lack of realism in pursuing a vision or grand goal risks making its author seem unrealistic, ill-informed and foolish. While there are ideas whose time has indeed come, there are also ideas whose time and necessary circumstances have yet to arrive.
A COMPELLING LOGIC
I have never seen a vision or grand goal that has immediately received universal support from everybody its accomplishment will affect. In fact, the skeptics, doubters, uncertain and down right opponents often significantly outnumber the early enthusiasts. Visions and big ideas usually mean change, which in turn means predictable resistance and anxiety among those who fear the change will affect them negatively or leave them behind.
Gaining support over time for a new direction or way of doing business requires a degree of persuasion from those in charge. And making one’s case gets a lot easier when there is a clear link — a compelling logic — between the goal and the purpose or mission of the organization. To put this in simple terms, if realizing the vision will not obviously improve the organization’s performance of its purpose or mission, then why should anybody want to do it? Getting this explanation right inexorably increases the ranks of those who will eventually get on board.
A DETAILED GAME PLAN
A vision for one’s organization or big idea always begins in abstract terms. After all, it is just an idea. But how to get from where you are to there. Realizing a vision demands a detailed game plan, consisting of a series of steps, benchmarks of progress, defined timeframes, dedicated resources and the human talent necessary to make things happen. This is serious detail work. Often a visionary is great at the big picture but not so great at the details. Getting the right people to develop the game plan and keep the journey on course is essential to success.
At the same time, an effective game plan is sufficiently flexible to accommodate the unforeseen and the unintended consequences of any human activity. Getting to the end goal is what matters, not the precise route you may need to take.
Chapter eight in John Naisbitt‘s fascinating book — “Mind Set!” — about predicting the future, is entitled “Things that we expect to happen always happen more slowly” (P.63). This is wise advice for anyone seeking to realize a vision or big idea. Sustaining these efforts demands PATIENCE and PERSISTENCE or what I call P2. Success is about self-discipline and staying the course no matter how tough the going may get. Far too many wonderful ideas have died because the effort seemed too hard or the timeframe too lengthy. If the end goal is worth it, then so also is the effort required to achieve it.