There’s Vision…and there’s vision

It’s become common practice for executives to articulate a vision for their organizations as a whole (along with mission, values, strategy and the brand proposition) and also for major divisions within large organizations.  We can call that Vision with a capital V.

Now, are you leveraging the power of vision with a small v? Smaller visions — for departments, teams, projects, jobs, employees and customers –are the “secret sauce” that makes an organization great. Those visions with a small v aren’t just a nice, feel-good bit of fluff.  They’re the connecting links necessary for effective execution of the overarching, strategic Vision created at the top.

V-v Leadership Creates Aligned Results

Effective executives cultivate the ability of managers and supervisors at all organizational levels to create and communicate visions that connect the day-to-day work of employees to the big-picture organizational Vision.  They know that it’s the small vision (along with a workable plan of action for carrying it out) that keeps people inspired while working on challenging projects. It’s the small vision that give people a sense of meaning, purpose and accomplishment when meeting the needs of a customer and providing superior service. It’s the small vision that motivates people to perform routine work tasks with the precision required for organizational excellence.  It’s the alignment of small visions within the organization that builds teamwork across department lines.

The Key to Executing Strategy

I’ve seen many well-intentioned and intelligent executives spend significant amounts of time hammering out the overarching vision, mission, values and strategy for their organization.  In the process, they connect with that Vision. They’re excited to roll it out to the employees and move forward on implementation.  But disappointment sets in later when execution stalls or fails completely and their employees see the vision statement as a “plaque on the wall” that’s completely disconnected from what they do every day.

The problem isn’t that they didn’t do great work. The problem isn’t that they had a flawed high-level strategy.  The problem is that they didn’t recognize the need to step that high-level strategy down and connect it to the daily work performed in the organization. They didn’t cultivate smaller visions consciously aligned with their big Vision.  Working with employees to create those smaller visions is what managers and supervisors need to do. But they can’t do it unless they’re supported in that work through training, coaching and the recognition that this is part of their leadership role. If the work of creating small visions isn’t valued by the executive leadership team, it won’t be valued by managers. And it won’t get done.

Effectiveness Gives Value to Efficiency

Creating and bringing visions with a small v to life takes time and energy on the part of the leader. Like growing a fruitful garden, it’s a process — not a single activity. And it can seem like it’s more efficient to simply “do the work”.  That mentality is common among  supervisors and managers because it’s reinforced by top executives.  It’s also what keeps organizations stuck. Chronic problems don’t get solved.  Morale and productivity stay low.  Customers bolt for the competition. Departments are highly efficient at doing the wrong things.  New people are brought in, new programs are announced but nothing really changes.  It doesn’t have to be this way.

Fortunately, I’ve had the pleasure of working with many forward thinking executives, managers and supervisors who recognize that the time invested in creating small visions pays big dividends.  I’ve seen first-hand what a good leader with a commitment to creating small visions can do — and it’s amazing. Given the context set by vision and the guidance of a well-crafted plan of action, employees take ownership of the work. They work smarter. They become proactive at solving problems.  They’re highly engaged in activities that make a difference. People can connect to small visions in a big way and it shows in the results they get.

Does your organization need more V-v Leadership?  Make your own batch of “secret sauce” and see what happens!

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