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Visions are simply the fist step in the goal setting and planning process. While
mission statements guide the organization in its day-to-day operations, visions
provide a sense of direction in the long term -- they provide the means to the

In "Leaders," Warren Bennis and Burt Nanus conclude, "Leaders articulate and
define what has previously remained implicit or unsaid; then they invent images,
metaphors, and models that provide a focus for new attention. By so doing, they
consolidate or challenge prevailing wisdom. In short, an essential factor in
leadership is the capacity to influence and organize meaning for the members of
the organization."

They continue, "Managers are people who do things right and leaders are people
who do the right thing. The difference may be summarized as activities of vision
and judgment -- effectiveness verses activities of mastering routine -- efficiency."

Bennis and Nanus describe leaders as "creating dangerously" -- they change the
basic metabolism of the organization. Top Peters wrote that leaders, "must
create new worlds. And then destroy them; and then create anew (Thriving On
Chaos)." What is interesting, is that Peters defines visions as aesthetic and moral
-- as well as strategically sound. Which would sort of knock Hitler's quest of the
world as being a vision. Visions that are merely proclaimed, but not lived
convincingly are nothing more than mockeries of the process.

Vision Statement Examples
"Men wanted for hazardous journey. Small wages, bitter cold, long months of
complete darkness, constant danger, safe return doubtful. Honor and recognition
in case of success." - explorer Ernest Shackleston in a 1890 job ad for the first
Antarctic expedition.

"When I'm through...everyone will have one." - Henry Ford on democratizing the

"I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this
decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the
Earth." - President Kennedy, May 25, 1961

"There's something going on here...something that is changing the world...and
this is the epicentre." Steve Job of Apple Computers during its initial start-up

"Quality, hard work, and commitment - The stuff America is made of. Our goal is
to be the best. What else is there? If you can find a better car, buy it." - Lee
Iacocca when he was chairman of Chrysler Corporation

"2000 stores by the year 2000." - Howard Schultz, of Starbucks Coffee Company

"Do it, try it, fix it!" - Wal-Mart's Vision

"To strengthen the social fabric by continually democratizing home ownership." -
Federal National Mortgage Association, Fannie Mae

Exploring the past, illuminating the present and imagining the future" - National
Museum of Australia

"Empower people through great software, anyplace, any time and on any
device." - Microsoft's vision

"To provide the best service and lowest fares to the short haul, frequent-flying,
point-to-point, non-interlining traveler." - Southwest Airlines' vision

"Whirlpool, in its chosen lines of business, will grow with new opportunities and
be the leader in an ever-changing global market. We will be driven by our
commitment to continuous quality improvement and to exceeding all of our
customers' expectations. We will gain competitive advantage through this, and by
building on our existing strengths and developing new competencies. We will be
market driven, efficient and profitable. Our success will make Whirlpool a
company that worldwide customers, employees and other stakeholders can
depend on." - Wirlpool's vision

A Framework For Managing Discontinuities
In its simplest form, discontinuity in the work place is change. A popular change
framework is (Knoster, Villa, & Thousand, 2000):
Vision -> Skills -> Incentives -> Resources -> Action Plan = Change,

       A vision is the starting point for goals it provides the launch pad for action
        and the parameters for problem-solving.
       Once a vision is established, it is necessary to build the skills needed to
        realize the vision.
       Incentives help to motivate the workforce to acquire and maintain new
        skills. Building "buy-in" engages them -- it means they are now stake-
       Adequate resources allows the vision to be achieved.
       Action planning is a continuous thread across all phases -- it is change
        process. Although presented as the final component of the change

       framework, it should be viewed as the foundation of the systems change

If any of the steps are missing, something will go wrong:

      Skills -> Incentives -> Resources -> Action Plan = Confusion
      Vision -> Incentives -> Resources -> Action Plan = Anxiety
      Vision -> Skills -> Resources -> Action Plan = Gradual Change
      Vision -> Skills -> Incentives -> Action Plan = Frustration
      Vision -> Skills -> Incentives -> Resources = Treadmill Effect (false starts)

For more on the visioning process, go to Leading.


[Tags: Mission Statements visions ]

Knoster, T., Villa, R., & Thousand, J. (2000). A framework for thinking about
systems change. In R. Villa & J. Thousand (Eds.), Restructuring for caring and
effective education: Piecing the puzzle together (pp. 93-128). Baltimore: Paul H.
Brookes Publishing Co.

Great and the Social Sectors

By Andrea Useem

Churches, schools, non-profits, public agencies – all are essential but the
complaints about them are familiar. They are slow to integrate technology.
Unresponsive to individual needs. Financially unaccountable.

If you‟re heard those complaints, you‟ve also heard the commonly prescribed
remedy. Those organizations should become more like businesses: dynamic,
responsive, financially sound.

According to Jim Collins, the prescription would be right – improvement is
necessary – but the metaphor would be wrong. Those organizations don‟t need
                to become more like businesses. They need to become great

                So writes Collins in Good to Great and the Social Sectors, a 33-
                page monograph released last year. Collins said he was
                inspired to write this extra chapter for his book, Good to Great
                (published in 2001), when he learned that more than half the

people who read his book belonged to non-business organizations. After
conducting new research, Collins has tweaked his Good to Great concepts so
they ring true for social sector organizations. He boils the content down to five
main points:

1. Defining “Great” – Calibrating success without business metrics. Like
businesses, social organizations need to measure performance. Unlike a
business, however, a social organization cannot point to easily quantifiable
bottom-line profits. Some make the mistake of focusing on fund-raising, but
raising funds is not the ultimate goal of, say, an environmental protection non-
profit. Excellent performance in that case means actually protecting the
environment. How to measure such an amorphous goal? Well, writes Collins,
just do it. Push your organization to create multiple measures of success.

2. Level 5 Leadership – Getting things done within a diffuse power structure.
Leaders of social organization wield less raw power than a business-world CEO.
They must contend with complex constituencies, such as unionized work-forces,
membership bodies or elected trustees. As a result, social leaders exercise what
Collins calls “legislative” leadership, relying “more upon persuasion, political
currency and shared interests” to make the right things happen. This distinction
leads Collins to the assertion that “more true leadership” may be found in the
social sector. “True leadership only exists if people follow when they have the
freedom not to.”

3. First Who – Getting the right people on the bus, within social sector
constraints. Excellence derives first of all from human capital, Collins insists.
 How can a social sector leader find and retain the best people while constrained
by factors like tenure, unions, and relatively low pay? Do your best, Collins
says. If it‟s hard to get the “wrong people” off the bus through firing, then double
your efforts to get the right people on through hiring. If you have only small
salaries to offer, then find people who are not primarily motivated by money.
 Here‟s where the social sector can shine, argues Collins. A noble purpose –
such as feeding the hungry or creating great art – “has the power to ignite
passion and commitment.”

4. The Hedgehog Concept – Rethinking the economic engine without a profit
motive. Greatness means forward single-mindedly, like a hedgehog, Collins
argued in Good to Great. The “hedgehog concept” revolved around three
questions: What are you deeply passionate about? What can you be best in the
world at? And what drives your economic engine? Collins discovered that the
last question needed tinkering for the social sector, where money is just one fuel
for a larger “resource” engine. In a volunteer-driven organization, for example,
people donating time can be as important, if not more, than people donating
money. Building brand in a marketplace of organizations can be equally

5. Turning the Flywheel – Building momentum by building the brand. When
Hurricane Katrina struck last year, a sympathetic public overwhelmed the
American Red Cross with donations. Was it the best organization to deliver
assistance? Not necessarily, as it turned out. But the organization‟s well-known
name gave the public “an easy answer to the question, „How can I help?‟” writes
Collins. A strong brand reputation provides momentum for a virtuous circle of
success, what Collins calls “turning the flywheel.” In business, rational capital
markets provide this momentum: when a company succeeds financially, capital
pours in. In the social sector, a solid reputation, built on proven results and
emotional pull, draws in the funding and opportunities required for long-term

Collins closes his monograph with the observation that “people often obsess on
systemic constraints.” It might seem that leaders of social organizations face
particularly difficult circumstances: shoestring budgets or volunteer workforces.
But Collins says no: both business and social sector organizations have a unique
set of advantages and disadvantages. And ultimately, he says, it‟s not the
environment that matters but the will towards excellence. How else to explain
why some institutions thrive while others wither, even though they face the same
challenges? “Greatness, it turns out, is largely a matter of conscious choice and

Note: Andrea Useem writes about religion for the Washington (D.C.) Examiner,
and the Religion News Service. Her articles have appeared in the Washington
Post, Dallas Morning News and other newspapers. Based in Reston, Va., she
can be reached at

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