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One Way to be among the 30% Whose Change Initiatives Succeed: Vision

by | Mar 14, 2016 | What We Think

Ignore operational changes and throw out cost savings and efficiency efforts for the moment. And focus on changes that keep your organization buoyant and market relevant – shifts in strategy and vision. These changes are exciting; they involve innovation and passion and a view toward the future. Yet even here, 70% of change initiatives fail.

There are myriad reasons why strategic changes fail to take hold. But let’s focus on just one: the lack of a clear and unique vision.

Whether in a Global 50 company, a local non-profit, or something on the vast spectrum in-between, an organization’s vision has several key roles.

First, it must define who you are. If you read the vision, could it belong to any other organization? We are working with a terrific organization that is redefining its vision. The arguments about the revised vision among members of senior management and the Board reflect a lack of cohesiveness and a lack of surety about the impact the organization wants to have. How can programs and plans and success measures be put in place if there is no driving vision? One member suggested a catchy, concise vision statement that sounded great. But it didn’t distinguish this organization from many others. A marketing tag line is not a vision.

Second, a vision must help guide future strategic and tactical decisions. It helps determine how to allocate resources, how to prioritize among the many ideas and programs. It focuses efforts. It helps to create a strategic plan that is comfortable with “no.”

Finally, a vision must excite. An organization’s vision is the source of the passion that drives management and employees. It provides a screen for evaluating potential employees, and it is the font of an organization’s culture.

Visions evolve over time. Tim Cook introduced a new and lengthy vision statement for Apple. Read it and you understand what Apple does, “We believe that we are on the face of the earth to make great products… We are constantly focusing on innovating… We believe in the simple not the complex;” how they do it, “…we need to own and control the primary technologies… and participate only in markets where we can make a significant contribution… saying no to thousands of projects, so that we can really focus on the few that are truly important and meaningful to us;” and the essence of their culture, “We believe in deep collaboration and cross-pollination of our groups…we don’t settle for anything less than excellence… we have the self- honesty to admit when we’re wrong and the courage to change.”

Murky visions are like the childhood game of telephone; they morph into many variations when shared, blocking an organization’s ability to change and limiting the ability to succeed.

Step One to be in the 30% of successful change initiatives? Have a clear vision.

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