Developing a Vision Statement That Isn’t Useless
Create a vision that is compelling and full of life!
Think back to when you were first developing a vision statement for your organization. You were excited, full of passion, and engaged! Fast forward to today—Can you think of the last time you read your vision statement? Do you even remember seeing it recently? If you did see it, did it have any impact on you at all? What did it actually do? It’s quite sad to see something receive so much effort and attention, yet end up impotent and forgotten.
I bet your vision statement is actually useless. These corporate-speak, PR-approved constructs are offensively dull because everything is watered-down in the wordsmithing process. This goes two ways—it either becomes meaningless and abstract in an attempt to make sure the widest possible set of outcomes are stated, or the sentence gets so specific and narrow that it becomes impossible to articulate what you believe the future should look like.
What would happen if you expressed your vision statement with a vivid and expansive description of the future? Rather than writing a trite statement, try writing a story, creating a series of images, filming a video, or recording audio that conveys what transformation actually looks like when it happens. There are so many ways to tell a good story, so use those techniques and mediums to convey that future reality in various ways.
Make it real. Vivid. Personal. Make it memorable.
By the time a corporate vision is memorialized on a page, the passion has most likely already been sucked out of it, making it lack any real visceral impact. So make it an argument. Make it a fight worth fighting for. Why do you think manifestos are so impactful (besides the small typewriter font and the incoherent rambling)? They sing with passion! Be passionate for what you believe and why you think the future should be that way. That passion will attract others, invite them into the challenge, and help them believe the vision.
Normally, by putting the vision statement up on the wall, leadership has most likely abdicated all sense of responsibility for keeping the vision in front of the company. What if you personally took responsibility for being the keeper of the flame, for shining the light on where you are collectively going, and helping others to see what they should be doing and why? If you consistently raise the torch, other people might do it too, and it will become ingrained in the culture.
Without leadership, without people like you to keep the flame aloft, the vision will go to die in plain sight—on a website, the lobby wall, or in some corporate manual—and never really impact anyone at all. The passion, energy, and effort you put poured into the vision statement will have been a total waste.
So when you consider developing a new vision statement, instead of writing a sentence that won’t do anything, think about ways to forge a vision that is compelling and important enough that it must be shared. Then make the vision immersive, clear, and full of passion, so that people are invited in to see it as clearly as you do. Finally, be the champion of that vision; hold it aloft as much as possible, so that every person connected to your organization is called back to it again and again.