One of the fundamental roles of a leader is to envision the future: where do you want your team/organization/business to go?
But coming up with a good vision is hard – and communicating it in a clear way is often even harder.
We see plenty of examples of visions that fail to move people to action or to give clear direction. Think about the last time your read about ‘We want to be the synergistic and customer-centric providers of excellence’. Many sound as if they come straight out of Dilbert’s Vision & Mission statement generator.
The problem is often that the creators of these visions have some kind of a clear picture in mind of what they mean – but others do not.
And that leads to the fact that the vision is not concrete and does not move people to action.
But not only communicating a vision is challenging. Also coming up with a good vision is far from easy. Not always do we know where we want to go.
One leadership tool that has been very useful for me in the field of envisioning is to ‘find out and show what’s possible’. If we have a rough idea of where we want to go as a leader then finding specific examples or analogies of great achievements in similar direction is a good next step.
During one of my consulting projects on cost optimization we looked at the manufacturing process of a plant. There were some struggles in convincing the crew that something could be done to optimize the ‘change-over’ process.
This is a crucial process especially in consumer-goods manufacturing plants when you change the machinery line from one product (e.g. orange juice) to another (e.g. fruit tea) and a lot of efficiency (and money) can be lost here.
To show the possibility for change a project member came once up with a great analogy: Look at Formula One car racing pit stop times. How have they evolved over the years? From double-digit seconds to the current record by McLaren Mercedes of 2.4 seconds for a tire change.
This analogy gave the right direction and good inspiration to the technical team. It was a very clear example that even the best and most professional technical teams constantly improve their ‘change over’ process. It might not work for all teams but for this machinery and technology-oriented one it was spot on.
A key advice for leaders is therefore to be on a
constant lookout for examples of people who have accomplished something: the IT team that made magic happen when the impossible was asked? The intern with the influential presentation that went up to the board of directors? All of these can help you developing & communicating your vision of the future.
People who know me know that I always carry around my notebook as well as electronic devices and make notes as soon as I see something interesting. I recommend you to do something similar and then to share these examples. This can make your vision a lot more concrete and engaging for your organization.
Have you had any experiences with envisioning the future as a leader? I am curious to hear your examples and thoughts.