The past decades have thankfully provided increasing examples of organizations demonstrating that things can be done differently. Look at Whole Foods. Look at what global carpet tile manufacturer Interface has done. They are companies that focus on creating lasting value for all stakeholders.
Creating lasting value entails delivering value for employees, for customers, for shareholders and for society.
What is a Vision?
But where does it start? It starts with a vision.
But what is a vision? Many definitions, synonyms and meanings are circulating about, such as mission, purpose, guiding principles, corporate DNA and calling, to name but a few.
To find our way through this jungle of concepts, we use vision as an umbrella term for an image of the future as well as the basic philosophy of an organization. What follows are some of the indications a vision provides in a concise, clear and structured way.
Higher Goal – Provides a Sense of Purpose
With a higher goal, you describe the reason for your organization’s existence. Why do we exist? What, in essence, do we want to be? What would the world be deprived of if our organization did not exist? Essentially, it states the organization’s unique contribution to every stakeholder.
A higher goal is more than just a simple slogan. It is an in-depth and carefully thought out reflection of the essence of an organization.
A higher goal is therefore not simply the description of the things you do or the products you sell. This creates a feeling of indifference. You must continue asking the “why” question to discover the higher goal. If you receive the answer “Well, that’s why!” after asking this question five times, you are slowly getting to the core.
And it is essential you continue asking questions so you reach the core of what you are doing and why you do things. Take a look at Google’s higher goal: “Organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”
An Audacious Goal Provides a Sense of Direction and Excitement
A higher goal provides a foundation and forms a guiding principle along which action is taken. But that does not actually move people to take action. That is only achieved by having an audacious goal: a challenge to aim for in the future that can only be attained through a Herculean effort, but which is nevertheless still within reach.
What are we aiming for? That is the question that lies at the basis of the audacious goal.
Accomplishing an audacious goal requires a proactive mentality, a sense of urgency. We can refer to an audacious goal as a dream with a deadline. There are various types of audacious goals that put people in motion.
Of course there are always the goals of: being #1 in something. But there is more. A Parisian sewage treatment company formulated the following goal in the 1990s: “Salmon will swim in the Seine again in 2006.”
This was a concrete situation that had to be attained at a specific moment (the Seine was very, very polluted.)
But there are also quantitative goals such as “in 2020 we have realized Mission Zero,” as Interface has. In other words, to become 100 percent sustainable, no CO2 emissions. Take a look at where they are now.
Core Values – Provide a Sense of Belonging
Core values are deep-rooted convictions that indicate what the members of an organization believe to be of essential importance. They show what an organization stands for.
Values are moral aims or ideals toward which people strive and hold dear and from which they derive their motivation. Values also have an emotional charge. They indicate what people would like to do. They are also a source of inspiration and a commitment tool.
Core Qualities – For a Sense of Proudness
Finally, core qualities determine what you as an organization are good at, the things at which you excel. And awareness of your core qualities is an essential element of a vision.
By not devoting sufficient attention to the unique and inalienable characteristics or qualities at which an organization excels, visions often remain devoid of any sense of reality. There is very strong likelihood, in fact, that the act of formulating higher and more ambitious goals will be a pointless exercise if you fail to ask yourself what qualities you possess to actually realize them.
Does Your Vision Have Aroma?
A vision, therefore, consists of four components that should not be viewed individually but as a cohesive entity – a Gesamtkunstwerk (in German): a perfect fusion of various elements.
But when is a vision good? When people in the organization can draw energy from it.
A practical place to start is with the AROMA criteria:
Ambitious: the vision must exude ambition. It must articulate the dreams and passions of people in the organization. The vision provides an appealing image of what people really want but are not yet doing at this moment.
Relevant: the vision must be relevant to all stakeholders, including customers, employees and shareholders. They must recognize the vision and deem it relevant to their situation. A vision that does not concentrate on challenges in the relevant sector at all, for example, lacks relevance.
Outstanding: a good vision cannot be uniform. The vision normally reflects the unique core and the unique contribution of the organization. Unfortunately we still come across “copy-and-paste visions” from time to time that actually only echo what others have thought of.
Motivating: a good vision sets people in motion. It energizes people and inspires them to act. People are keen to start working to make the vision a reality.
Authentic: a good vision reflects the authentic core and is therefore recognizable. The authenticity criterion challenges dreams and management claptrap by simply asking whether it is real.
Does your company’s vision have AROMA?
This article was originally published on CSRwire
Jeroen Geelhoed is partner at &samhoud, made up of a ‘usual unusual’ consultancy and a two Michelin star restaurant that brings top quality cuisine to a mass audience. Blogs here highlight a few ideas from Jeroen’s new book, Creating Lasting Value, which he co-wrote with Salem Samhoud and Nur Hamurçu.