FULL STEAM AHEAD!
Unleash the Power of Vision in Your Company and Your Life
Ken Blanchard and Jesse Stoner
Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2003, 162 pp.
A few important concepts and principles are wrapped in another of Blanchard’s “stories.” The story is a little weak and the religious aspect is dilute enough to avoid offense to anyone. Blanchard says vision is “knowing who you are, where you’re going, and what will guide your journey.” (87) Vision as made up of three elements: significant purpose, clear values, and a picture of the future. (Vision usually refers only to the latter. I think his definition is too broad for maximum effectiveness.) He doesn’t use the word “mission,” suggesting that it has been used in too many ways and become indistinct.
Vision statements turn people off when they provide no guidance and have nothing to do with reality. (Preface)
Potential results of a shared vision: Vision can produce tremendous energy, excitement, and passion. Everyone knows what they are doing and why. There is a strong sense of trust and respect. People have power to make important decisions. There is much room for creativity. Managers let people assume responsibility because they are clear about their goals and direction. (23-4)
“Leadership is about going somewhere.” (25)
Purpose means what we are here for, why we exist, what business we are really in (from the customer’s perspective). (29, 42) Purpose “affects what products and services we provide, how we market them, and even how our receptionist answers the phone.” (31) A significant purpose can inspire excitement and commitment. (39)
The authors emphasize the importance of group input into purpose and values by giving the characters lines like the following: “It feels so good to have my thoughts and opinions appreciated. It’s part of what I love about working here.” “It felt good to see my contributions making a difference.” (a character in the story, p. 45, 49)
“There was a robust discussion. Based on our customers’ perspective, we created a statement of purpose…. We all left the meeting enthusiastic and focused. It was refreshing! The lively discussions had been an important part of creating that energy. If everyone had just been handed a typed document…, I doubt that it would have had much impact at all. The meeting reinforced my view that involving others besides the leader is important….” (55-6)
Purpose explains “why.” Values explain “how.” “They answer the question, ‘How will you behave on a day-by-day basis as you fulfill your purpose?” (59)
The authors like Merck’s purpose and values as found right on the front page of their web site. (61) A company’s values should be stated so clearly and openly that it helps attract new employees with compatible values. (62)
Values should be described in terms of examples of specific behaviors so everyone knows exactly how to live out the values. (65)
When personal values are consistent with organization values there is greater commitment and pride in the organization. Common values are unifying. (66-7)
Good visions are clear and distinct, not fuzzy or vague. CNN’s vision: to be “viewed by every nation on the planet, in English, and in the language of that region.” Steve Job’s vision: a computer on every desk. Martin Luther King’s vision (in part) “…that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character….” (74, 76)
“The power of picture works when you focus on the end result, not the process to achieve it.” (77)
The authors’ understanding of vision (“knowing who you are, where you’re going…”) as described in pp. 80-83 is too broad and thus muddies the clarity and power of the concept. They try to make vision long-term and enduring (which is true of purpose) than a glorious goal to be achieved and replaced with another (which I believe is a better concept).
“The discussions we had in shaping the vision were as powerful as the vision itself.” “You need to look at who should be involved in shaping the vision, and you have to be open to their thoughts, dreams, hopes and needs. You have to be willing to allow them to help shape it.” (119)
The leader’s job is to articulate and champion the vision. But everyone must own it. “Otherwise, it’s just your vision and not a shared vision.” The leader must encourage dialog about the vision. He must share his vision with others and then be open to hearing their thoughts and reactions, open to including their hopes and dreams in shaping it. If there is something in the leader’s vision that they don’t agree with, it won’t happen anyway. (121-22)
A rallying call is a great way to encapsulate the message of a shared vision. (128)
“You do not create a vision once and then stop. Visions are ongoing and continue to evolve. As you listen to others, your own vision will crystallize even further. This is why the ongoing communication is so important.” Communication of the vision is one of the leader’s most important jobs. (129) One important aspect of communication is helping people interpret events in light of the vision. (130)
Living it out is the hardest part of transforming a vision into reality. (131) Supporting structures – habits, practices and processes that support the vision, are important. (132)
The leader sees himself as a servant of the vision, not an important leader who needs to be served. (137)