We started the discussion with the first step in the Kotter model: (1) create a sense of urgency. Then we continued on with the second step:(2) form a powerful coalition. This time around we get to talk about the vision:(3) create a vision for change.
A vision for change is not exactly the same as a corporate vision. You will need both and only if both visions are pointing the same direction, can you really expect them to support each other. A vision for change is a picture of what we’re going to look like after we have made the changes on whatever dimensions. It also extends to a picture of what we’re going to be able to exploit, grab, take advantage of thanks to this change.
There is actually nothing mystical about vision. A vision is a picture of what an organization could and should be. A hallmark of great leaders is that their vision includes big ideas. Big ideas get people excited. Nobody wants to do something small. Leaders want to feel motivated about coming to work, because what they do matters.
The creative process of developing a visionary statement consists of three steps: Observe, Reflect, and Write. Here’s a summary of these processes:
Step One: Observe
In order to determine a vision, you must become an astute observer of your world. You have to immerse yourself in watching, listening, and wondering. Pay attention, ask questions, probe, discuss, and gather information. It is impossible to create a vision from an ivory tower. You need to feel the pulse of the floor in order to understand the language and the visuals that will excite the people. Without a long period of observation, your vision will not resonate with anyone.
Step Two: Reflect
Now you turn inward. For example, you look at important events in the company, or important events in your life and career, and ask yourself: What did I learn? What is this telling me? During reflection, you come up with stories and examples that form your vision and clarify your values. These stories enable you to speak authentically from your own wisdom and experience. In this reflecting stage of the process, it’s better to have someone listening and asking questions. A coach or trusted advisor can help you talk through a story or idea and find the significance of it. Find that person in your coalition that can provide you with some feedback during this process. Useful advice can come from unexpected interactions. Some people are uncomfortable with the idea of talking about themselves in business speeches. However, by weaving personal stories into their speeches, leaders connect with people. Storytelling is one of the most powerful methods to convince an audience.
Step Three: Write
Because we live in a fast-paced world, with little time for reflecting and writing, many people want to skip this step. That is a mistake. When you write, you discover how to say precisely what you mean. Many people think they can just speak off the cuff. That is an important skill. But when you are articulating a vision, writing it down is a critical step in the process. It also allows you to share this with a few advisory people in your coalition before communicating the vision with the rest of the organisation. I strongly believe that writing something down, giving it some time to breath and revisiting your text at a later date is an extremely useful step when creating a vision. You don’t get a second chance to create a vision so spend enough time on this step!
The activities of observing, reflecting, writing, and practicing a speech are not usually on an executive’s calendar, but they should be. A powerful vision, well-articulated, attracts people to an organization, motivates them to take action toward progress, and drives business results.