Today, several organizations, big and small, take about a shared vision and the need for a collective driving force. It is interesting to note, however, that the concept of shared vision as developed by Peter Senge was first studied, theorized, and implemented at schools.
It is quite paradoxical that schools, which are considered temples of learning, are also often plagued by the same organizational issues as their corporate counterparts. Senge came upon something universal.
As with all change, Senge discovered that change happens best in establishments where it isn’t forced upon people. This can be a tricky conundrum to navigate. Across large organizations, leaders find it particularly hard to communicate with everyone in the value chain. As a result, they depend on training and development programs as a means to reach their very wide audience.
Most times, however, these training programs are standardized and have very little scope for change. They drive home individually beneficial attributes but do not always do justice to the specific business case. Everyone goes back having taken something away from the experience, but never enough to accomplish the end goal- that of seeing all of what the business needs, and knowing what each person’s role is in making that happen.
How to separate goals from vision
As counterintuitive as that sounds, a shared vision is simply a blueprint for what is being envisioned. There are bound to be several changes along the way. Adjustments will be made, employees will come and go, the business plan itself may change, but the vision remains constant. To succeed in creating long-term value, leaders must be willing to
Let go of short term goals
Let people make their own choices on daily operations, as opposed to enforcing strict goals
Adjust performance evaluations to suit these shifting goalposts
Encourage a culture of innovation and learning, over one of rigid structures
Not penalize people for not working on specific issues, and instead encourage them to develop their own problem statements
The Five Common Elements Of An Organisation With Shared Vision
Broadly, we observe that organizations that have a shared vision, and those that can sustain it for long, practice five universal elements. These are
Consistent communication about the vision. The vision serves as a reference point in all conversations and discussions. Both managers and staff are not afraid of referring back to the vision when in doubt, and to steer themselves.
Taking the credit and the blame. Time for a quick reckoning- think back to the last conflict at your workplace. How much ownership was assumed and how much blame was distributed? Individually and collectively, we get defensive at workplaces. However, learning can only happen when both responsibility and credit are shared appropriately. In fact, in a learning organization, mistakes are used to find ways to improve collectively.
Bravery in the face of adversity. The thing about the most successful companies in the world is that they simply do not think of challenges as just that. They can foresee challenges well in advance and learn from them fast enough to diffuse the threat.
Clear communication. It all boils down to communicating clearly and with conviction. LinkedIn ranks collaboration as one of the top soft skills needed for workplace success. Communication goes beyond just the use of words and non-verbal cues. There is a clear need for collaborative thinking and going beyond the individual ego.
Consideration for the other. Points four and five go together. Clear communication and collaboration can only happen when we see each other’s point of view.
A leader’s job, then, is not to set daily targets or even annual ones. Instead, it is to build and reinforce these five pillars within their organisation strongly. Doing so will ensure that you don’t ever need to micromanage. Execution, then, takes on a whole new meaning. You go from enforcing goals to achieve, to applying a vision to follow. That is the approach that will hold your organization in good stead for decades to come.