A Vision – Is It Worth Investing The Time?

1. Yes, and you don’t have to take my word for it.

We are regularly met with a lot of scepticism when we talk to business owners about the need for a vision. But developing one can yield a tremendous return for the time invested.

And you don’t have to believe me.

There’s an article called “Step Into The Future” in the current issue of Inc. magazine written by Ari Weinzweig, a co-founder of Zingerman’s Community of Businesses in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

2. Three reasons why a Vision is worth having.

The original business opened in 1982, almost 30 years ago. Zingerman’s Community of Businesses now has annual revenues of around $37 million, 500 employees and 17 managing partners. They are successful by several different standards of measurement.

“It’s safe to say that we wouldn’t be where we are without visioning” according to Weinzweig.  He’s asked regularly for business advice, often by people looking for the silver bullet. While that doesn’t exist Weinzweig says “There is one thing I wish I had understood more clearly from the get-go – the power of visioning”. And that is one very compelling reason for investing the time.

“When we do effective visioning, we’re moving toward the future we want……..” Weinzweig gives an example of a vision they wrote in 2005 for a new venture that had still to get off the ground. Three years later the successful business actually mirrored the vision in key respects.

Having a vision is fundamental to developing and executing an effective strategy. The vision lays out where the company is going; the strategic plan tells everyone how the company will get there. It also becomes easier to choose which opportunities to pursue when they arise. The first question is always “Will it help us achieve our vision?”

“A great vision is inspiring” and gives everyone a reason to come to work. Weinzweig uses a great analogy. He likens a vision to a cathedral, a lasting monument, the tangible evidence of a group’s dreams and hard work. (Fans of Ken Follett’s book “The Pillars of the Earth” should find it particularly easy to relate.)

3. Three ways to make effective use of the time.

Eight Steps to a Vision is the name Weinzweig gives his process. Three of the steps involve drafting and re-drafting with gathering data and assessing trends etc. saved for strategy development.  So it doesn’t require a lot of time to complete. 

His structure is similar to many others, including our own. Most are easier to use than business owners imagine.

Use questions to get things moving. Asking questions about specific aspects of the future make it more tangible. Weinzweig lists 14 questions covering topics you would expect – such as how to measure success – and some topics you wouldn’t – e.g. what the owner does all day.

In our process, we circulate a few questions to key participants in advance. It helps them feel prepared, which makes it easier for them to participate.

Don’t sweat the details. Inevitably, at some point, the discussion will move to the action steps required to achieve the vision. Save these for the planning session. They’re great input but not required during visioning – which is more about passion than detail.

4. Wrapping it up.

I think one reason for scepticism is that business owners confuse visioning – a process – with the vision – an output. 

And a few years ago developing a Vision was the fashionable thing to do, a fad, a silver bullet. As a result framed Vision Statements, many of them meaningless platitudes, littered reception areas.

But Weinzweig and Zingerman’s are evidence that visioning works and that the ROI on the time can be very satisfying.

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Tags: action steps, business, executing strategy, Jim Stewart, owner, Planning, ProfitPATH, revenues, strategic plan, strategy, Strategy Development, trends, vision, visioning

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