How to Create a Compelling Company Vision

Leaders set the direction for their organization. And, one potent way they do this is through creating a compelling company vision.

company vision feature image apple tree analogy

While I use the words company vision, you could apply the advice in this article to any form of organization. You can even apply it to sub-divisions of an organization.

What Is a Company Vision?

A company vision is simply a mental picture of a future state that you want to move your organization towards.

Vision is an essential part of transformational leadership. And, researchers have linked transformational leadership to higher levels of staff satisfaction, motivation and performance. So, your vision for your company matters.

The Apple Tree Analogy

John Kotter uses a simple apple tree analogy to explain how company vision works.

One leader takes charge and starts commanding people to get up and move. ‘Move now,’ she screams. She then continues barking in much the same way as a drill sergeant.

A leader of a different group manages the move down to the last detail – ‘hop up, leave your personal belongings on the ground, march towards the apple tree, do not get closer than 2 feet from anyone else, leave your personal belongings.

A third leader says to her group, ‘it’s going to rain soon, why don’t we walk over to that apple tree. We can stay dry and have fresh apples for lunch.’

It was the third leader who used vision. Yes, the vision she used was with a small group of people, rather than a company vision, but the lesson remains the same.

This example shows that a company vision does not have to be complicated, complex or mystical. Nor is it about hanging a vision statement on the wall.

Rather, it is about motivating people to move in a particular direction.

What Makes A Vision Compelling?

Some authors have described the characteristics of a compelling vision. But, only a few are backed up by empirical research.

Leadership Sage is dedicated to offering you evidence-based advice. So, the 7 elements of a compelling company vision listed below are based on this research.

Compelling Company Vision Element 1: Be Desirable

The first thing that makes a vision compelling is its desirability. You want your vision to inspire, motivate and offer direction to those you lead. So, you must ensure that it appeals to their hopes, ideals and values.

Compelling Company Vision Element 2: Be Clear

Secondly, you must make sure that your vision offers people a clear picture of what the desired future looks like. You want your vision to give direction to those you lead. A vague or fuzzy picture will not be able to do this.

Compelling Company Vision Element 3: Be Broad

Your company vision needs to be clear. But it must also be broad. You want it to guide people’s actions, while still allowing your staff to apply it creatively to their own work. Moreover, you want to motivate your followers in an ongoing way. Specific goals lose their motivational value once they have been met.

Compelling Company Vision Element 4: Be Challenging

To be motivating, your vision must be challenging and even audacious. Yet, it must also be realistic. If your vision is not challenging enough, it will not motivate your staff to do anything different to what they are already doing. But, if people don’t believe it is achievable, it won’t motivate them either.

Compelling Company Vision Element 5: Be Focused on the Long-Term

Goals and objectives focus on short-term results, while vision focuses on the long-term. Your vision needs to guide your staff far into the future. This is essential due to the scope and scale of the challenge inherent in your vision.

Compelling Company Vision Element 6: Be Concise

A compelling company vision is concise. But not to the point of being meaningless or unclear. You must be able to explain your vision in less than 5 minutes. And, as a general rule, it should be made of less than 23 words. This allows you to integrate it into all of your communications and it helps others to remember it.

Compelling Company Vision Element 7: Be Stable

While it may be worth refining your vision periodically, you don’t want to be changing it every other day. So, a good vision must be able to endure foreseeable changes in the environment, including changes in technology.

In Short

Compelling company visions are:

  1. Desirable
  2. Clear
  3. Broad
  4. Challenging
  5. Focused on the long-term
  6. Concise
  7. Stable

Sample Company Visions

To make unique sports cars that represent the finest in Italian design and craftsmanship, both on the track and on the road.
Company Vision for Audi
To provide access to the world’s information in one click.
Company Vision for Google
Making the best possible ice cream, in the nicest possible way.
Company Vision for Ben & Jerry’s
To develop leaders who will one day make a global difference.
Company Vision for Harvard University
The web’s most convenient, secure and cost-effective payments solution.
Company Vision for PayPal
To be the world’s most customer-centric company.
Company Vision for Amazon

 

References

Books

Bennis, W., & Nanus, B. (1985). Leaders: Strategies for Taking Charge. New York: Harper & Row.

Kotter, J. P. (1996). Leading Change. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press.

Kouzes, J. M., & Posner, B. Z. (2007). The Leadership Challenge. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Nanus, B. (1992). Visionary Leadership. San Francisco: Wiley.

Research References

Awamleh, R., & Gardner, W. L. (1999). Perceptions of Leader Charisma and Effectiveness: The Effects of Vision Content, Delivery, and Organizational Performance. Leadership Quarterly, 10, 345–373.

Baum, J. R., Locke, E. A., & Kirkpatrick, S. A. (1998). A Longitudinal Study of the Relation of Vision and Vision Communication to Venture Growth in Entrepreneurial Firms. Journal of Applied Psychology, 83 (1), 43-54.

Kantabutra, S. (2008). Vision Effects in Thai Retail Stores: Practical Implications. International Journal of Retail & Distribution Management, 36 (4), 323-342.

Kantabutra, S. (2008). What Do We Know About Vision? Journal of Applied Business Research, 24 (2), 127-138.

Kantabutra, S., & Avery, G. C. (2007). Vision Effects in Customer and Staff Satisfaction: An Empirical Investigation. Leadership & Organization Development Journal, 28 (3), 209-229.

Yukl, G. A. (1999). An Evaluation of Conceptual Weaknesses in Transformational and Charismatic Leadership Theories. The Leadership Quarterly, 10 (2), 285-305.

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