Make Your Vision Work by Francis Miller

The word 'vision' often puts people off. It can conjure up the image of sitting in a cave and waiting for inspiration to descend, thereby suggesting that visions are something special that only a few people can develop.

That's nonsense. Visions are simply images of the future. Everyone has them all the time, both for themselves and for their businesses and organisations.

So the key question is not whether people can have visions but how they can make their visions most effective.

Before answering this, it's important to ask what the point of having a vision is. I believe that a vision has two main purposes.

Firstly, a good vision provides direction. Without a direction, businesses can go round and round in circles, making little progress. In addition, having a direction provides a foundation for making important decisions about the future.

Secondly, a good vision provides energy and motivation. All leaders know that people work better if they have a purpose for their work that is attractive and that they believe in.

Below are various ways of increasing your vision's effectiveness. As ever, it's important to use your judgement. If any of these suggestions don't turn out to be useful for you, then don't use them.

1. Make your vision concrete and specific. Everyone's come across those meaningless and anodyne visions about delighting customers or being the best. The problem with them is that they don't motivate and they don't help you to make decisions.

So, if you do want to delight customers or be the best, be much more specific about what you mean. One of the best ways of doing this is to paint a detailed word picture so that someone else reading it will know exactly what you are talking about.

It's really up to you what areas you include in your vision. There are standard business areas often included in visions such as the level of sales or profits, the business's position in the market, the development of new products and returns to shareholders.

You could also include other areas such as what sort of staff you will be employing, how staff will feel about working for the business, what your office will look like and what customers and competitors will be saying about the business.

2. Make it exciting. Your vision sets the destination for the business. If you and your staff aren't excited about getting to that destination, you are much less likely to generate the energy that you are going to need to get there.

People have different destinations that excite them. For some, it's money; for others, it's developing a great product or building a successful company. What's the destination that really excites you?

This is linked very much with point 1. Your vision is much more likely to be exciting if it is concrete and specific.

3. Include your customers and other important groups. Businesses succeed because they retain old customers and gain new ones. Including in your vision how your customers are going to benefit by doing business with you is one way of ensuring that you stay focused on their needs.

It can also be useful to include other groups which are critical to the business's success, like investors and suppliers, for example.

4. Understand the external environment. Successful companies anticipate changes in their external environment and alter course accordingly. Visions must take into account how changes in customer demand, the actions of competitors and improvements in technology will change the competitive landscape.

An important question to ask is: how does your business need to evolve in order to remain competitive in its market in the coming years?

5. Don't be excessively ambitious. Some writers talk about BHAG's (Big Hairy Audacious Goals) ie. goals that are huge and daring. That's fine for some businesses but, for other businesses, such visions feel overwhelming and disempowering both to managers and their staff.

Visions should something to aim for and to take a business out of its comfort zone. However they don't need to be impossible.

6. Make it a working vision. It's all too easy to develop a vision and then forget about it. That's a complete waste of time. Effective visions are cascaded downwards so that your strategic objectives evolve out of your vision and initiatives are developed to achieve your strategic objectives. And so on.

It's important also to communicate your vision to your staff. How can they be working towards the business's vision if they don't know what it is?

7. Make it flexible. Visions shouldn't be set in stone. As both internal and external circumstances change, your vision is going to need to change as well. Therefore it's important to revisit it at least every 6 or 12 months just so that you can check that it's still relevant.


Developing an effective vision is a key part of an internal business plan. More information about developing your vision can be found in my Internal Business Plan Manual.



© Francis Miller 2001-2008