Successful strategy development and execution begins with crafting a strategic vision by top management. The vision describes the desired future state of the organization. Organizations that are successful in strategy execution often have a guiding purpose that remains stable while their strategy and activities continuously adapt to an ever-changing world. The vision gives meaning and direction to the strategy and its execution.
CRAFTING A STRATEGIC VISION
Successful strategy execution begins with the formulation of a clear and attractive vision by top management. The vision describes the desired future state of the organization. The vision provides a purpose or reason of being for the organization. The vision describes the value proposition that explains the benefit that the organization provides to its customers and how it does it better than other organizations. The vision also includes a set of values that are related to the core competencies or strengths of the organization. The values serve as guiding principles of the organization and describes the desired behavior and attitudes of employees.
6 ELEMENTS OF A SOUND VISION
Organizations that are successful in strategy execution often have a guiding vision that remains constant while their strategy, organization and activities continuously adapt to an ever-changing world. To serve as a guiding purpose an effective vision has the following characteristics.
The vision gives meaning and direction to the work of organizational members. The vision clarifies the direction in which an organization is to move. By creating a vision and communicating that vision to organizational members, leaders give a direction to organizational members. This gives them clarity and security about the implementation. Employees need to know what they have to achieve to make the strategy a success. If one does not know what one wants to achieve one cannot achieve it.
The vision is shared by organizational members. A vision that is not shared by most organizational members is useless. It may look good on paper or on a website but if employees to do not incorporate it, its meaningless. Ideally, top management and employees identify with the vision and aim to make it a reality.
The vision is clearly defined and well formulated. A reason for implementation failure is that implementation projects are often started without a clear vision of what is to be achieved resulting in execution failure. Developing a vision is difficult and takes competent and knowledgeable leaders to come up with a sound and clear vision.
The vision is simple and focuses on the essence. The vision must create a picture of the future that is attractive, exciting and easy to understand for organizational members, customers, shareholders, and other relevant stakeholders. The simpler the vision is, the easier it is to understand and execute. When the vision cannot be explained in five minutes or on one page, it is too complex.
The vision is attractive and inspires employees and stakeholders. A clear and attractive vision increases the confidence of employees in a successful outcome of the strategy execution effort. An attractive and ambitious new vision helps to attract and unite organizational members and stimulate them to increase their effort and performance. The vision should also be attractive for external stakeholders such as customers, shareholders, suppliers and society.
The vision is ambitious but realistic and feasible. An unrealistic vision reduces the motivation and commitment of managers and employees. A recurring problem is that strategic visions are often unfeasible in that they are too ambitious in their goals. Research has shown that ambitious but realistic goals result in the best work performance.
My research found that strategies are often executed without a clear and sound vision of what is to be achieved. Coming up with a sound vision requires visionary leaders and managers who have a thorough understanding of their organization and industry and are brave enough to expose themselves with an ambitious vision.
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Dr. Arnoud van der Maas is a consultant, author and speaker in Strategy & Strategy Execution. Received a PhD in Strategy from Rotterdam School of Management – one of the top business schools in Europe. His passion is to empower organizations to better develop and execute their strategy.