What is a vision? It’s not as esoteric as it sounds. A vision, simply put, is a picture of what success will look like at a particular time in the future. It encompasses answers to a range of questions such as:
- What does our business look like?
- How big is the business?
- What are we ‘famous’ for?
- Why does anyone care about what we do?
With a completed vision, a business will have a clearly articulated future which will not change every time the market shifts.
A vision statement for a business focuses on the potential inherent in its future, or what it intends to be. It may be aspirational. It should be achievable. A vision statement may contain references to how the business intends to make that future into a reality whilst the actual ‘how’ is more properly part of a ‘mission’ statement.
A vision is not a strategic plan. The vision articulates where the business is going; the plan expresses how the business is actually going to get there. Planning work should only commence after having formulated an agreed vision. Creating a viable plan without a vision is not feasible.
Vision statements can be can be expressed in as little as one sentence.
- A just world without poverty. (Oxfam)
- Amnesty International’s vision is of a world in which every person enjoys all of the human rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international human rights instruments.
- To view change in the market as an opportunity to grow; to use our profits and our ability to develop and produce innovative products that satisfy emerging customer needs, (Hewlett Packard)
Alternatively the vison statement may be longer .
An example from Coca Cola:
Our vision serves as the framework for our Roadmap and guides every aspect of our business by describing what we need to accomplish in order to continue achieving sustainable, quality growth.
- People: Be a great place to work where people are inspired to be the best they can be.
- Portfolio: Bring to the world a portfolio of quality beverage brands that anticipate and satisfy people’s desires and needs.
- Partners: Nurture a winning network of customers and suppliers, together we create mutual, enduring value.
- Planet: Be a responsible citizen that makes a difference by helping build and support sustainable communities.
- Profit: Maximize long-term return to share-owners while being mindful of our overall responsibilities.
- Productivity: Be a highly effective, lean and fast-moving organization.
In each of these, the vision statement helps to define goals, creating something to work towards in the future.
A typical business vision statement will be brief and succinct. It should refer to things in a longer-term broad sense, without sounding either overly specific or too generic. If too specific, the vision will be limited and may not be applicable in five or ten years down the track. If, on the other hand, the vision says, for instance, that the business wants to achieve success then it is too generic as the same should be expected of all businesses and offers no differentiation.
The best statement will be clear about who you are as a business as well as who you wish to become.
When creating a vision statement a business is articulating its dreams and hopes providing a constant reminder of what it is trying to build.