Handling Complexity...Hold it in a Vision
When information is so complex that it can’t be digested in bite-sized pieces, throw it all into a big container so that you can hold it. One of the most powerful containers that leaders use is a compelling vision.
Visions are pictures of future success.
They are often paradoxical in that they contain both bold strokes of imagination and possibility as well as significant richness of detail. While grounded in reality, a compelling vision can bring people together unleashing their passion in a united effort that calls on everyone involved to contribute to a bigger ambition and a more meaningful future. As people see and feel the energy of the vision, the rich detail gives them a sense that they are already there in the future reality they have created. This sense of the future now ignites the forward motion toward achievement of the vision.
Many clients start out by telling us they already have a vision and their concern is implementing it. They think they have a problem of execution. But we have found that a common reason for poor execution is the lack of a broad-based, collaboratively created empowering vision of a future with a higher purpose.
Instead of a robust, fully supported picture of what success looks like we generally find generic vision statements placed in brochures and on wall posters that no one reads. These vision statements are intended to provide company direction and to unite employees, but they feel hollow and so generic that they could belong to almost any entity that wants to be #1 in products and services delivered.
Since you can’t possibly describe everything you hope for in the future, use visuals and stories to capture what you are trying to build. The vision then becomes an intuitive living document, or chart, with the power to screw up the status quo, compelling you to throw out the old way of looking at the world and giving you the tools to create a new, more inspiring way of conquering complexity in the future.
We have found that guided vision exercises provide “lens opening” insights for our clients. In creating a picture of success, a recurring theme usually emerges that gives people a handle for holding what success looks like. In working with a global investment firm, the vision experience allowed them to identify a major theme that reconnected the team to their higher purpose of “democratizing capital”. This vision served as the company’s “true north,” giving team members a clear direction as they set out to communicate and engage the whole company in achieving this vision. As importantly, the vision served as an essential filter in decision making and selecting key opportunities.