Envisioning and crafting a custom-built future

LL 94 focus your visionMy eyes are extremely near-sighted. That means they are able to focus only a very short distance from my retinas. It’s particularly helpful when I need to remove a splinter from my finger; I can bring it right up to my eyeballs, detect the minutest detail, and nimbly extract the problem. But if I ever attempt to pilot a plane in that unfocused, cross-eyed condition, I’ll most definitely crash and burn. Big time!

See, it’s clarity we crave
Clearly, our vision works best only when it is focused and delivers a distinct image of our surroundings to our brains so we know how to maneuver through it.

The same goes for the organizations we lead. Not only must we look reality straight in the eye, but we must also clearly envision and exhibit a well-defined picture of our desired future reality.

For that future scenario to be both embraced and enabled, everyone entitled to the view must see it with the same clarity.

Yet all too often (like me without corrective lenses), we stumble toward some hazy horizon, blindly unaware of our exact direction and destination—let alone the pitfalls, obstacles, detours and disturbances along the way.

To further clarify our understanding, let’s resolve the differences between the common rhetoric typically splashed across websites and annual reports:

• The Mission should tell why and explain our purpose.
• The Vision should show what and clarify our picture.
• The Strategy should describe how and provide our plan.

An effective vision statement needs to be a high resolution image. It must depict in enough detail what the desired end result will look like, so that people can see and grasp it for themselves. People do only what people see.

But it’s got to be practical
Anyone can dish up Pie In The Sky. Yet no matter how appetizing it may appear, it isn’t edible if we can’t get our hands on it! For our vision to be practical, it must be an attainable—albeit challenging—depiction of that delectable pièce de résistance.

The sharpest viewfinder of a sterling vision focuses through three insightful lenses that:

1. Interact with people’s deeply held desires.
2. Illustrate a clear and achievable scenario.
3. Inspire people to work, achieve and live for it.

When any one of those “i-pieces” is missing, the vision is indistinct, ill-defined, and ultimately irrelevant and unattainable. Consider this bleary example from a park district in the mid-west:

Enhance the quality of life for our community both now and in the future.

While a commendable endeavor, this sounds more like an attempt to explain its purpose (the why) than its results (the what). Lacking the crucial illustrative end result, this vision remains too fuzzy. How is the quality of life defined? What will it look like when it’s been enhanced, and how will people know? What does it offer to inspire everyone to buy in—and pitch in?

For a sharply focused vision statement, consider that of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation:

The Chesapeake Bay and its tributary rivers, broadly recognized as a national treasure, will be highly productive and in good health as measured by established water quality standards. The result will be clear water, free of impacts from toxic contaminants, and with healthy oxygen levels. Natural filters on both the land and in the water will provide resilience to the entire Chesapeake Bay system and serve as valuable habitat for both terrestrial and aquatic life.

In this elegant yet simple statement, seamlessly incorporating interaction, illustration and inspiration, it’s easy to picture a renowned and celebrated successful restoration of the entire watershed—with sparklingly clean waters teeming with abundant wildlife, and sustainable and rich habitats for all living things. And because we can picture that, we can believe that, and we can do that!

Although near-sightedness is critical to contend with the details of your immediate issues, if you would lead others to attain a custom-built future of your collective design, you require the far-sighted focus of a clear and practical vision. Become the oculist your organization needs: prescribe some corrective “eyepieces” to sharpen the view and achieve those dreams.

MasterPoint: Focus your vision to realize your dream.