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#142: Double Vision

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, September 29, 2009
My colleagues and I argue, good naturedly, over the meaning of the terms mission, vision, objectives and strategies. Although we agree to disagree, each finding support in the literature for our varying definitions, we do diverge strongly on vision. Is there one dominant view on vision?

Not to add fuel to the debate, but you presume that there must be only one definition of vision. I have always felt that there are two different concepts of vision that are used simultaneously. Hopefully this makes things clearer, or at least provokes some thought.

I see two visions: one internal and one external. The internal is a more traditional view of "what type of organization are we creating over the mid- to long-term? What will the organization look like after we faithfully pursue our mission, accomplish our objectives through successful execution of our specified strategies?” Once an organization gets close to its internal organizational vision, it is time to reach higher, usually with an entirely new concept of the organization. The constraint of the internal vision is that other organizations are, at best, indifferent to its achievement or, at worst (i.e., competitors), opposed.

The external vision is what the organization wants the world to look like as the result of its activities, including achievement of its internal vision. This is most appropriate for nonprofit and public sector entities whose desire is to create a public good, but it can be applied to commercial firms. Rather than a description of a single organization, the external vision is a state of nature of the world in which the organization exists. In fact, if this vision is realized, the organization no longer has a reason to exist. All people have safe drinking water. No one is homeless. Everyone has access to affordable healthcare. The power of this vision is that there are likely many other entities, including traditional competitors, who support and are can align behind such a vision.

Tip: There is room for two distinct, useful visions in defining who your client is and where they are going. To get the best alignment of resources, including from competitors, think of double vision as a way to see clearer.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  consulting terminology 

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Alex Saloutos says...
Posted Tuesday, September 29, 2009
A good vision includes both internal and external viewpoints. An organization's vision defines success from the perspective of each of their stakeholders, both internal and external. The vision is a series of short statements, each of which defines what it will look like when they're wildly successful from each of their stakeholder's perspectives. It is where you are going. Who are your stakeholders? For a homebuilder that would include customers, owners, employees, trade partners and the communities they build in. There could be other stakeholders. They’re groups that have an interest one way or another in your success. Think about who to include and create a statement that reflects each of their perspectives. For example, for the employee perspective a vision statement could be, “Summit Builders is the employer of choice in markets we build in, where team members have fulfilling careers and a balanced personal life.”

Read more about mission, vision and values on my blog here:
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