‘Leaders have vision’ has become a cliché. But what is the meaning of having a ‘Vision’? Almost every Company has a Vision statement either emblazoned all over the Company or at times tucked away somewhere in a corner. However, how many in the Company actually understand and align with this Vision is a million dollar question. In many Companies the word ‘Vision’ is rarely understood even by the senior managers, forget the ‘aam junta’ or the workforce. Is the vision only meant for the hallowed board members?
Many companies I have come across have some rather complex vision statements, requiring a Ph.D in English to decipher. Vision should be simple, straight forward, and easy to understand. It must touch a chord with the entire organization, including the foot soldiers, such as the janitors (even if these functions are outsourced). Vision must be all enduring, which means it must be eternal. Vision is not numbers, or a target to be achieved. While Mission statements are finite and achievable in a time bound manner – not so the vision. Vision is everlasting.
A Vision is all encompassing. A Vision is generally not easily attainable, while it can be realized, it cannot be reached easily or in a defined time frame. A mission is more task specific, has clear objectives to be reached & in a defined time frame. Mahatma Gandhi’s vision was not just to throw the British out of India, it was the upliftment of mankind; not just the poor down trodden Harijans. His vision encompassed the entire world. To achieve this, yes, he had to strive to throw the British out of India, he had to fight the caste system, fight social oppression etc. These became his mission criteria for realizing his vision.
What is the underlying purpose of the organization? Is it only to make profits? Yes, a business has to make money, that is not a point of debate. It must be profitable, must make tons of money. But why? To make the shareholders happy? That would be too narrow a vision. What if we were to broaden the vision to include the customers, and all people who come in contact with the Company must leave happy.What would bring this happiness? Maybe the product or the service? The feeling of joy of experiencing the service is what brings in the sales. A satisfied customer is ultimately your best salesman! The customer is not only the person who buys the end product; it is anyone who comes in contact with the organization at any point of time. That means, it includes the employees, the share holders and myriad people such as the vendors, suppliers etc. Keeping or making everyone happy does not mean doing ‘Haji haji’ (yes sir, yes sir) to one and all. Making everyone happy means striving to create a win-win at every stage of the organizational process.
Vision becomes the DNA of the organization and just like the DNA it must be able to be passed on from one generation to the next without change. It cannot change with the ‘change of guard’ or the board of directors or a change in share holding pattern. Hence, Vision must not change with change in ownership or if the man at the helm changes. The vision remains steadfast in its place, because it is eternal. The Vision is like the Super ordinate Goal – all encompassing. And in turn, it would have various missions which will synchronize and lead to the Vision.
An organization is made up of people who live, eat, breathe their own individual visions. Individuals make up the organization and the combination of individual DNAs make up the organizational DNA and vice versa. Hence, the various DNAs need to match or align themselves to form one seamless organization.
It is imperative that for an individual ‘the Wheel of Life’ is critical. Just like a bicycle wheel has different spokes the ‘wheel of life’ consists of six spokes. As the bicycle wheel needs to be tuned and calibrated so that the wheel turns smoothly without a wobble so is the case with the ‘Wheel of Life’. All the religions talk of this ‘Wheel of Life’ in different forms. The six spokes of the ‘wheel of life’ are a) Professional b) Family c) Financial d) Social e) Knowledge f) Spiritual. These spokes have to move in tune with each other in order to lead a fulfilling life.
These same spokes hold true for an organization. An organization needs to deliberate and formulate these six mission statements or spokes and tune them such that they mesh with the Vision. If they are aligned, the organizational wheel runs smoothly and successfully or else, it wobbles. Each individual working in the organization has his/ her individual mission aligned to these six goals. If they match exactly with the organizational wheel – ‘wow’, you would have Utopia. However, there will be mismatches at times which would then need to be sorted out at both the organizational and individual level without drifting away from the vision.
While the vision is at the Apex of the organization, the various spokes in the form of the six mission statements form the basic foundational building blocks for the very existence of the organization and these in turn lead us to the value system of the organization. An architect looks at the foundation and can immediately tell how strong the building would be; whether it would have the strength and stability to withstand the shocks of an earthquake, a hurricane or a storm. People work for the organization not just for the money, or just to get the satisfaction of work, they work for the organization if their value systems match. The day these become different or the gap becomes too wide, either they quit the organization or the organization quits them.
An organization which is able to evolve & stick to the organizational ‘Wheel of Life’, periodically balancing the Wheel when a wobble develops, will be the enduring organization Otherwise it risks having a premature demise.