A post we added about a year ago, “A Stretch Vision“, recounted the story of a CEO friend of mine who blamed the organization’s tough times in part to an aggressive vision. As I read through it, I was reminded of another piece, a newsletter from several years back for governing boards, about the power of a stretch vision.
Seems there must be some middle ground out there where a vision is powerful enough to inspire great things while not dragging the organization under with unrealistic ambition. I hope to shed some light on that middle ground here.
Is the vision too much?
In last year’s post, I wrote the following regarding the struggling organization’s vision: “My view is that the call to action did not translate into strategic planning at the subsidiary level that had real integrity. Instead, the vision became a directive from the board that drove financial projections. There was never a process to either seriously question the assumptions underlying those financial projections on the one hand or to appropriately plan how to get there on the other.”
In this case we will never know if the vision was an ambitious, but doable stretch or an impossible dream. There was not sufficient planning to get there nor was there any delving deeper into the numbers to assess their feasibility.
So, in short, setting the vision is the first step, but not the last. An ambitious vision must be followed by an equally ambitious strategic plan that is actively managed, i.e., progress regularly monitored and results measured, or it will not materialize. Equally key, if there is doubt on the feasibility of a vision, check the numbers and rethink the vision if needed.
The stretch that motivates
In the governing board newsletter of several years ago, I cited a couple examples of successful stretch visions. A key in these cases was the alignment, excitement and motivation of the leadership and staff doing the work. If the board sets a vision that is ambitious, they must bring the CEO into full agreement. The CEO is then tasked to bring his/her leadership team on board, and together they align and rally the staff behind the goal.
Success here hinged on a belief by the majority, if not all, involved that the goal was possible to achieve, that it was worth the effort, and that they were capable to do it. Miss one of those, you will have a struggle.
The two together
So if I take both of the pieces we have written on visioning and meld them together, the answer boils down to a two-pronged solution. A stretch vision is achievable if two factors accompany it: alignment of the crew and a really good strategic plan.
Alignment alone is not enough, nor is a good strategic plan. But put the two together and you can succeed. Rally the troops together and build alignment, then give those troops a plan they can track, monitor, measure, revise and use regularly to make decisions. My experience confirms that you will see real progress on that stretch vision in the year ahead.
Want help? We have tools you can use to create the stretch vision, build alignment, develop a solid strategic plan and measure your progress/results. Or if you aren’t looking for an active partner in creating your plan, we can coach you at no cost on some steps to help you get started. Contact us via e-mail to find out more.