Vision is the Foundation of Culture

My vision had been bothering me for a few months. It was no longer crisp and clear – it was blurry. Objects weren’t in focus. I chalked it up to old age. Feeling confident that since lasik surgery fixed my blurry vision 12 years earlier, lasik surgery was the way to go.

I had a pre-op exam and made an appointment for a complete exam on the morning of surgery. The doctor dilated my eyes, took one look through his high-tech instruments, and said, “We’re not doing lasik on you today. You’ve got cataracts.”

I wasn’t surprised; both my parents had undergone cataract surgery when they were in their 80’s. However, I wasn’t yet 60! No matter; if that’s the issue, you gotta solve that problem.

Vision Is The Foundation Of Culture

For most players in most organizations around the globe, workplace vision isn’t clear. There is no formal declaration of where the company is going (vision, or future state) or what the organization is trying to accomplish today (purpose, or present state). Just as my blurry vision caused me frustration, lack of clear organizational vision causes frustration for everyone in that organization.

A key part of Blanchard’s culture change process kickoff workshop for senior leaders is assessing the clarity of vision & purpose in their organizations. Typically senior leaders believe that the organization’s vision is “obvious” yet middle managers and front line staff don’t have that clarity, at all.

One client “took to the plant floor” to help senior leaders understand the lack of clear vision. They arranged videotaping of dozens of informal interviews with front line supervisors, team leaders, and staff. The interviews were short and sweet since there was only one question: “What is the purpose of our catalog printing plant, today?”

The answers were amazingly consistent. Nearly all of the respondents said, “To make money.” Some added, “For owners & stakeholders . . . ” Senior leaders were quite surprised but, after reflection, they realized that they had created that image in the minds of plant staff.

When senior leaders constantly, primarily, sometimes exclusively focus on profits, market share, cost savings, etc., the message is clear – “we need to make more money.” Now, making money is NOT a bad thing – in fact, it’s a VERY GOOD THING. AND, it should be a RESULT of your organization’s vision and purpose – not the company’s sole reason for being. “Making money,” particularly for somebody else, is NOT an inspiring vision or purpose, day to day.

Once these senior leaders understood they had created an incorrect vision & purpose, they educated plant staff about their organization’s core reason for being: “through accurate and inspiring marketing, help their client’s businesses be successful.” Within months, that message began taking hold – which enabled staff to act in alignment with that clear vision and core purpose.

How’s My Vision Now?

My cataract surgeries (yes, in both eyes) went beautifully. Vision out of my left eye (with a multi-focus lens implanted) is startlingly crisp, in focus, and clear. My right eye (similar implant) is set for close or mono vision, so I’m still getting adjusted to close focusing with that eye. Overall, my vision is fabulous and getting better every day.

How clear is your organization’s vision and purpose? What is the impact today on the degree of vision and purpose clarity? Tell us in the comments section below.

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  • My experience is that the Vision is usually shared and articulated BUT how to get there does not reach the different levels of the organisation. The senior executives are clear, the VPs are clear, the managers are some what clear and the “worker-bees” have no clue because their managers are not clear, or do not agree with the Vision or are not held accountable for not implementing the steps to achieve the Vision . .. a CEO leaves and a new one joins, then a new Vision is created and we start all over again.

    • Your experience echoes mine and those of many of our clients, Jay. It is hard work aligning everyone in an organization to the vision. Every plan, decision, and action – by every player, 24/7 – must align to the company vision, values, strategy, and goals. If those are not aligned, the natural consequence is frustration, missed quality standards, slipped deadlines, and lower profits than the organization is capable of delivering.



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