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Putting Our Vision Statement in Perspective

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Companies these days are supposed to have vision statements. We’ve got one, but what does it mean? And are vision statements even a good idea?

By now, pretty much everyone has heard of the idea that a company should have a “vision statement” that is printed on marketing material and maybe emblazoned on the wall in a training room. But what does this mean?

A fantastic definition of a vision statement comes from the website

An aspirational description of what an organization would like to achieve or accomplish in the mid-term or long-term future. It is intended to serves as a clear guide for choosing current and future courses of action.

There’s some good writing here:

  • “aspirational” – A vision statement is about what an organization hopes to do someday with great effort, not what they expect to do easily or are already doing.
  • “mid-term or long-term future” – Vision statements aren’t about next week. They are about the years and decades ahead.
  • “clear guide” – Instead of having all the answers, a good vision statement should illuminate where to go to get all the answers.
  • “courses of action” – The ultimate end of a vision statement is to help companies figure out specific strategies and tactics.

But are vision statements a good idea? Do they help people get on board and make things happen?

Workers with Construction Crane

© Flickr user Seattle Municipal Archives

The better question to ask is not “what is your vision statement?” but “what is your company culture?” In too many organizations, people can’t stand going to work. In those cases, putting something up on the wall is probably a de-motivational poster.

In short: if you have to tell your own people how great your company is, it’s probably not that great.

We’ve got a ton of material about organizational culture here on The Methodology Blog. A few highlights:

Breaking Down Our Vision Statement

Here it is:

To transform the American perspective on work.

They say that explaining a joke ruins it, but hopefully that’s not the case with something which is serious:

  • “transform” – We use this verb because it means more than routine change. Instead, that which is “transformed” is making a dramatic and thorough change not just to appearance but to character. We want to be part of a shift from the way things were to the way things will be in the future.
  • “American” – It’s a big world, but the way people engage at work is wildly different in the US. We have unique challenges and unique advantages here in America, and that’s where we are focused.
  • “perspective” – The problem with work is not usually the work itself, but how we talk about work, how we view work, and how we think about our relationship to work.

What needs to be transformed about our perspective? Almost everything. Instead of trying to monitor and control behavior, we should be focused on results. Instead of assuming that people are lazy, unmotivated, unreliable, and dishonest, we should presume they are competent, creative, and interested in getting things done. We need to find ways to get out of the way, to have fewer meetings and less time wasted. We need to be less obsessed with when and where people are and more obsessed with providing resources so they can be more productive.

In short, we need a whole new perspective. And that is why AccelaWork is here.

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Robby Slaughter
Robby Slaughter is a workflow and productivity expert. He is a nationally known speaker on topics related to personal productivity, corporate efficiency and employee engagement. Robby is the founder of AccelaWork, a company which provides speakers and consultants to a wide variety of organizations, including Fortune 500 companies, regional non-profits, small businesses and individual entrepreneurs. Robby has written numerous articles for national magazines and has over one hundred published pieces. He is also the author of several books, including Failure: The Secret to Success. He has also been interviewed by international news outlets including the Wall Street Journal. Robby’s newest book is The Battle For Your Email Inbox.
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