Once a leader articulates a vision, he/she can develop and inspire a strategy to move from the mission to the vision. How can a strategy be developed without knowing where the organization is going? The simple answer is that it cannot. However, organizations are often guilty of doing just that. Contrasted to a strategy developed without knowledge of a vision, a vision directed strategy has the potential to transform an organization by providing not only clear direction, but also inspirational motivation and intellectual stimulation. In other words, the strategy will consist of intentional, informed, and integrated choices pulled by the vision.
A vision also provides an invisible umbrella under which co-workers have the ability to see and the latitude to decide how to best accomplish organizational objectives. Just as an umbrella protects against rain (challenging times) and sunlight (boom times), a vision provides the protection to co-workers decision-making and associated actions. Co-workers will be comfortable and not fear making the “one right” decision since the vision provides the protection under which a range of “right” decisions can be made. This provides true empowerment of the work force. However, the vision also pulls the co-worker toward decisions supporting the strategy. When one can clearly see the road ahead, it is much easier to make timely adjustments and execute innovative maneuvers.
The guidance of a vision is equally important to business in boom and challenging times. In economic boom times, when profits and funding come easy, organizations that make grievous errors in direction can still look good and grow. However, these strategic decisions made during boom times are painful and often fatal when challenging times inevitably return. A clear, communicated vision provides the solution and strong insurance that major strategic decisions are purposeful and on target. President John F. Kennedy’s vision of landing a man on the moon drove NASA’s strategy, inspired NASA’s co-workers, and led to the achievement of this objective during the turbulent time of the 60s.
During the “Great Recession”, the focus was on productivity and doing more with less. Too often, we now hear about co-worker burnout and studies indicating that employees are ready to change organizations once the economy improves. The invisible hand of vision inspires and encourages co-workers to struggle to succeed. Co-workers see how they fit in the organization vision and experience individual consideration. Vision also effectively controls the uncertainty imposed on organizations by their environment. With a communicated, lived vision, co-workers feel that their needs and development are important even during times of extreme challenge.
It all starts with a vision. Just as the invisible hand of the market describes the self-regulating nature of the marketplace where individual ambition benefits society, the invisible hand of vision harnesses individual motivation to the benefit of the organization with respect to implementing organizational strategy, inspiring co-workers, and achieving objectives.
Stephen Kirnon is VP and life sciences practice leader at Witt/Kieffer. He brings over 20 years of global experience in the pharmaceutical, biotechnology, drug delivery and medical device industries to his executive search practice.