Last Saturday I attended my first PodCamp London. This “unConference” focused on new and social media. I enjoyed the informality of the event and the variety of people and topics it covered. But for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out what I was supposed to get out of the event.
In other words, I couldn’t figure out its purpose. What are the outcomes I should expect? Should I learn more about running a social media business? Should I walk away with new contacts? Is it for hobbyists? for professionals?
Having a clear long-term purpose is critical to effective strategy. It helps us determine what resources and skills we need, and what actions to take. It helps us craft short-term tactics. Recently, I sat down with an executive director (ED) of a small non-profit organization to discuss a social enterprise that they were in the midst of developing. Usually EDs are full of love, compassion and good intentions, but they are not usually strategic. This ED surprised me. Not only did she have a clear vision complete with outcomes, she used that vision to identify the resource gaps in the agency and to determine which strategies and actions were appropriate for the organization.
When I worked in corporate life, I often found the purpose/vision of the organization to be uninspiring, lacking creativity and flat. The purpose was often either a motherhood statement or so generic that it didn’t provide direction to those responsible for crafting strategy. Here are some gems:
- Improve shareholder value
- Recognized leader everywhere it does business
- Be a company that our shareholders, customers and society want
- Be a global leader in customer value
These vision statements are vague, flat, not measurable, and of course, provide no strategic direction to the organization. Good purpose/vision statements clearly articulate the organization’s objectives, stakeholders and an end state. A good vision/purpose statement paints a picture of the type of organization, client and outcomes. It enables you to determine whether you are achieving your vision, and serves as a filter to determine the appropriate actions to take in order to achieve the vision.
Test your vision. Look at everything you are currently doing, and currently considering. If everything on that list is inside your vision, then your vision is too vague. If there is a lot on your list that is outside the boundaries of your vision, STOP doing them. If you vision isn’t compelling to consumers, funders, shareholders, then you need to CHANGE your vision.
Vision is not just window dressing. It is a critical guide to strategy development and execution. How is your vision today?