A Lesson in Strategy: Lead with a Vision
By Kim Marcille
Yogi Berra’s 2007 commencement speech to the graduating class of St.
Louis University, he said, “Be careful if you don’t know where
you’re going in life, because you might not get there.” Yogi’s
latest take on his own funny and famous quote from years ago
certainly describes the unfortunate situation that many
professionals and business owners find themselves in.
focusing on the tactical nature of doing business, the strategic
vision is often lost, and in some cases it never gets established in
the first place. We’re sure that we need to make the month. We’re
sure that we have to pay the bills. We know that we have to keep our
customers happy if we have any hope of survival. But in the end,
will the business activities we engage in every day deliver the end
result we wish for?
only answer that if we know what the desired end result is. What
will your business look like at its most successful moment? In other
words, what is the ultimate state of your business? Armed
with a crystal clear and compelling vision of your destination, you
can lead your organization to accomplish it. Here are some ways you
can leverage your strategic vision to create change in your
strategic vision encourages business and personal alignment.
In the absence of a clear strategic direction, employees and even
business owners will do what they think will provide the most value
in the given moment, as they individually define it.
Whether you know it or not, you’re operating according to a personal
vision right now, and every person in your organization is as well.
Even if everyone has the best intentions, growth of the business
will be slowed because everyone is working on their own definitions
of success. Once you’ve clearly defined your vision and shared it,
your activities, the activities of your employees and the resources
of your business will come into alignment with that common
strategic vision creates focus.
When the economy is in a down cycle, the tendency is to focus on the
difficulty of conducting business, the lost opportunities and the
impact to the bottom line. This attention to the negative can erode
confidence and become a self-fulfilling prophecy. By keeping the
vision at the forefront of the organization’s awareness, employees
and management alike can focus on generating new ideas, planning for
the future and seeing new possibilities. It’s much like deciding to
buy a particular new car, and then noticing the car everywhere.
When we’re focused on a positive outcome, coincidences, resources
and opportunities arise as if by magic.
strategic vision sets a tone of success. A vision is something to reach for. It creates
hope and sets expectations. If it’s compelling enough, it will
inspire and motivate. The key to extracting this value from your
vision is to communicate it passionately and consistently over time.
Your employees and your business partners will only buy into the
vision as much as you do. If you allow the vision to lay fallow or
fall by the wayside, then it’s likely to be treated as “the flavor
of the month.” The more you engrain the vision into daily
operations, the more powerful it will become. By weaving the vision
into daily planning, performance reviews, staff meetings, and
company reports, you can make it part of the fiber of the
important side benefit you’ll receive is that the more you focus on
your own vision, the more it will become a natural part of you.
Your belief in the organization’s ability to achieve the vision will
drive the belief of others.
strategic vision guides the decisions of a business.
When a company is under pressure, its management may make choices
about solving immediate problems that may not be in its long-term
interest. When a vision has been established, management is obliged
to consider the impact of a decision on the company’s ability to
achieve the vision. Ultimately, short-term survival may be
paramount, but business owners and managers armed with a vision and
facing such choices may discover ways to ensure the company’s
survival while preserving its ability to achieve the vision as well.
strategic vision determines the right metrics.
Recently a business owner was pressured by a business partner to
close her own business and come work for his. She was debating how
to handle this issue, because they did a nice volume of business
together. Her vision, however, was to triple the size of her
business and sell it in three years. When she analyzed the business
she was doing with this partner, it turned out to be the least
profitable, most cumbersome set of clients she had. Because she had
her vision firmly in mind, she established a minimum profit margin
she would accept, as well as a minimum client size. With these new
metrics in hand, she began to seek other, more lucrative
partnerships that would help her to achieve her vision.
establishing and communicating a vision, you make a statement that
says, “This is what success looks like.” Simply choosing performance
measurements that reflect the vision will guide the organization
toward its achievement, and keep business activity on track.
strategic vision need not be written in stone, and you should expect
to revisit it from time to time as the market, the organization and
its leadership all evolve. But before a vision can be revisited, it
first must be visited. When deciding whether or not you have the
time to dedicate to the creation of a vision for your business, keep
in mind this quote from Christopher Reeve: “If you don’t have a
vision, nothing happens.”
least, nothing different than what you’ve got going on right now. If
there’s something more you’d like to achieve in your professional
life, make the necessary investment of time to get clear about what
that is. It’s an investment with a very high return.
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