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Define your vision. Together. In 40 minutes.

Image credit Rob Pyne, Bing Image Creator: Painting Together.

Landing a vision statement: Many minds make light work Is it possible to define your company’s vision – and do it well, and get the whole exec team’s buy in – in 40 minutes? Here’s my approach. I’d like to share it with you step-by-step in case it can help you next time you’re running a team strategy or planning session. I’ve used this a few times this year at strategy off-sites. Each time we’ve got strong energy and alignment around a 3-year vision in around 40 minutes.

The pre-work Before you start working on your vision, it has to be connected to something. The pre-work I suggest is to identify the “functional shifts” needed in your business. What are the changes you need to make to stay ahead of the competition in your market? Set a 2–3-year horizon for this. (This pre-work takes more than 40 minutes of course! But when you know roughly what changes you need to make in the next 2-3 years, then you’re ready to build on this with a profitable, motivating and actionable vision).

Defining the vision When I’m talking about a vision, I’m thinking 3 year horizon. Specifically, we’re trying to develop an over-arching statement which defines - & literally visualises - what success looks like in the next 3 years.

Here are the 8 steps to get there, which can be executed in as little as 40 minutes.

  1. Get agreement on what makes a good vision. I suggest that it has to be Profitable, Motivating and Actionable.

  2. Give everyone a stack of blank cards, get them to write as many different vision statements as they can in 10 minutes.

  3. Lay them all out. Get everyone to read them all. Tell everyone the vision is probably not here. But the clues are. Discuss what words, phrases, ideas are resonating with people.

  4. Send them off to do a second round: use what resonated with them to come up with a second round of vision statements.

  5. Lay all the new statements out. See what’s resonating again. Look for a great verb – that can bring the energy. Look for a powerful noun which describes the sphere of influence. Check what words, phrases and ideas are, profitable, motivating, actionable.

  6. Work with the group’s energy to create momentum around a couple options. It’s likely that one leading statement will emerge.

  7. Considering the leading contender, ask everyone whether they LOVE it, can LIVE with it, or LOATHE it.

Assuming everyone says LOVE it or LIVE with it, you’ve got your vision

The moral of the story Why does this work? I think there are a few lessons we can learn. First off, we’re harnessing the group’s collective intelligence in an unusual way: instead of a big talkfest, we’re getting them to work independently. Secondly, we generate lots of options and compare them. Being able to see 20, 30 even 40 options means we get to spot what’s working. The gold nuggets. Thirdly, by giving clear criteria (profitable, motivating, actionable), it becomes easy-ish for the group to converge on a winning vision statement. In short, I love this approach because it quickly unlocks the collective intelligence of the group, allowing the loud and the quiet people to contribute.


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