In the past few weeks, I’ve been involved in wide-ranging discussions about developing a vision for a company. Usually, this process is slow and painful, largely due to lingering confusion about the differences between a mission (what you do and how you do it) and vision (where you want to go…who you want to become). No, this time the sticking point is on how broad the vision should be.
At the outset of these discussions, somebody proposed a vision statement that was heavily focused on business goals. The formula: If we make X, our objective is to make and sell more X to more people by doing Y. I realize some companies use financial targets as aspirational goals – I’ve been in a few of them – but I’ve always found these to be ephemeral and shallow as vision statements; they seem to imply that making even more money is the beginning and end of any vision and good enough reason for me to stay with the company. I think this narrow perspective misses the point that companies are more than just an organization for selling goods and making money. Companies are members of the community. They are (potentially) forces of social and economic change. They are home to employees and guardians of a distinctive culture and workplace environment. In that context, developing a true corporate vision requires a holistic perspective that defines the company not just as a business entity or provider or products and services, but also as a corporate citizen and employer. Companies striving to appeal to the intellect and emotion of employees – and customers – are likely to get more traction from this well-rounded approach.