Saturday, May 12, 2012

Setting Strategic Direction (Part One - Vision)

The following is being posted as Part One of a THREE Part series. It comes from an original article called, "Setting Strategic Direction: Vision, Strategy, and Tactics" by Stever Robbins *. The full article on his website can be seen at

PART ONE - An Introduction

Defining and Using The Three Tools of Leadership
You’re so proud of your new vision statement. It sounds nice. Inspiring, even. But the vision is useless unless it can direct action.

Your vision lays out a destination; your destination guides your strategy; and strategy chooses action. It’s action that leads to success. In those moments of action, having clear direction is crucial for building momentum. If your organization is like most, you spent weeks debating every word crafting your vision, mission, strategy, and goals. But no matter how lofty, if they aren’t created in a way that provides direction, those statements are little more than high-priced indulgences.

Every company means something different by the words “vision” and “strategy.” One person insists that “Provide our customers the highest possible quality widgets” is a vision. A friend takes one look and assures him, “That’s a strategy.” Here are some useful definitions that will help you decide if you’ve set a direction that can truly get traction.

Envisioning the future
Vision is timeless. It’s based on who/what you want to do. It’s why you’ve got an organization in the first place. It must be specific enough that everyone can use it to decide if their work is moving the company forward. Progress towards the vision must be measurable. A vision is independent of specific competition, and while it may mention the customer, it must guide even someone who doesn’t know the customers’ mind. The best visions imply whom the company serves, what it provides, and what distinguishes it from other companies providing the same products and services. Vision sets the broad direction. It says, “Go west, young man.”

Wrong: We will provide exceptional products and services that our customers value.

This vision requires knowing the customers’ mind in order to understand what the company provides. It doesn’t distinguish what is unique about the company, since presumably everyone in the market produces something customers value.

Right: We will help boat owners everywhere navigate new seas with geographically based directional products and services.

This vision tells us the market, the product (navigation products and services), the distinguisher (geographically based), and the progress measurement (delight).

Some organizations may call this a mission statement, rather than a vision. Or, they may have both a vision and a mission, with the vision expressing the ideal world or company, and the mission expressing the company’s purpose. For our purposes, they’re the same. A mission statement rounds out the vision. Together, they give timeless, overarching principles chosen by the company that express the company’s reason for being.

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS on VISION STATEMENTS and MISSION STATEMENTS?  Please add your comments to this post and watch for the final two parts to this series that will be coming soon! 

* Stever Robbins <>  is an executive coach who helps executives and CEOs grow their business and chart their careers and lives. He is a serial entrepreneur, the author of Get-it-Done Guy's 9 Steps to Work Less and Do More <> , host of the #1 iTunes business podcast The Get-it-Done Guy, <>  and an adjunct lecturer at Babson College. You can find him at

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