Years ago as I was going through an organisational restructure with the threat of redundancy, a manager said 'don't wait for the future to happen to you, start making the future you want to happen'. This had a profound effect on me as I stopped worrying about what might happen and started focusing on what I could do and the difference I wanted to make.
This year, I was working with a Senior Leadership Team who were striving for the next innovative step and one manager said 'it's all about the customer, that's what I tell all my staff'. There were quite a few nods in the room. My response was 'that is a great operational statement but does not help staff understand the broader context of their work or what the leaderships aspirations are for the future'. So I pushed a bit more and said 'so what is the organisation vision you have that encompasses the customer?'
Silence in the room.
This is quite a common issue for organisations; as they start to get better at operational delivery they can focus on more internal results e.g. customer satisfaction or greater efficiencies. This loses sight of the big difference the organisation want to make in the world or at least their community (customers, suppliers, stakeholders, etc).
Three common mistakes with developing an organisational vision are (1) the vision is not ambitious enough - it does not take the organisation beyond the present generation of staff in thinking about the future. (2) The vision is not inclusive enough - it's the organisational mission (what we do) rather than a broader outcome (what is the change we want others to join us in making). (3) The organisational vision is not shared beyond the Senior Leadership Team.
The importance of an organisational mission is that during uncertain times it becomes the pathway to both the purpose of daily operations and also the strategic decision that are being made. Clarity of organisational vision helps reduce anxiety for some and inspires others.