The Vision Thing

The Way to Increased Competitiveness

Over the past several years, manufacturers have experienced the confluence of four seismic – scale phenomena:

  • Globalization has opened the entire world as supplier, customer and competitor.

  • Sustainability has broadened the scope of organizational responsibility to include the welfare of humanity and the preservation of the natural world.

  • Transparency, voluntary or otherwise, has resulted from the triumph of technology over privacy, augmented by the media and by the extension of torts litigation.

  • Global Recession — you know about that.

These have combined to end an era in which zoomed in [i], today-like-yesterday, mind-your-own-business manufacturing operations were possible. To even aspire to thrive in perpetuity [ii], today’s manufacturer needs a clear idea of where it wants to get to, and it needs effective processes to bring that idea to reality.

The Vision Statement

Stephen Covey taught a generation to “start with the end in mind[iii]. Better yet, start with a clear idea expressed clearly and communicated effectively. The Business Dictionary defines Vision Statement [iv] as:

“An aspirational description of what an organization would like to achieve or accomplish in the mid-term or long-term future. It is intended to serve as a clear guide for choosing current and future courses of action”.

Change “would like to” to something stronger — perhaps “intends to”, “commits to”, or, better yet, “will”. Limit your statement to a few memorable sentences. Be explicit about your time frame for realization — something like “by 2020” or “within five years”. Then you will have  an outline for a useful Vision Statement, not just fluff or hype.

Then follow through by setting a coherent set of goals and objectives that align with your vision for the future. Deploy those objectives throughout your organization and track those objectives through to relevant and measurable results.

Vision Statement è

Mission Statement

             Rational Goals è

                                    Quantifiable, Deployed Objectives è

                                                Action Plans è

Execution Process è

                                                            Relevant Results

One example of a useful Vision Statement is that of Interface Corporation, the carpet manufacturer:

“To be the first company that, by its deeds, shows the world what sustainability is in all of its dimensions: people, process, product, place and profit — by 2020 — and, in doing so, become restorative through the power of influence.”

Interface’s Vision Statement spells out what they intend to accomplish and when they expect to do so. It is clear how this Vision Statement can lead to rational goals and quantifiable objectives. At last report, they are on schedule to make their 2020 commitment!

There are literally hundreds of Vision Statements available as examples on the web. Google just about any large manufacturing firm. You will find that some are pretty good. Many others are little more than wishful thinking, at best.

This post starts with Vision and outlines a proven means for pursuing that Vision. However, what you envision is your future competitive posture. The four phenomena listed earlier create an absolute and on-going mandate that any firm that seeks to survive — let alone thrive — must continuously improve its ability to compete with all current and potential challengers, globally. This applies to “all challengers” as it applies to your firm. If you don’t have an explicit plan for leading the pack, make one and execute it relentlessly.

Thoughtful comments and experience reports are always appreciated. Click on the title of this post to open the comments section.

Chuck - Brittany 2012
…  Chuck Harrington

. — When it is time for your firm to seriously pursue Sustainability, contact me — C.H.


Note: This blog and associated website ( are intended as a resource for smaller manufacturers in the pursuit of Sustainability. While editorial focus is on smaller manufacturers, all interested readers are welcome. New blog posts are published on Wednesday evenings.

[i] For more on zooming in and zooming out, see Green and the Zoom Lens Mind, this blog,

[ii] Werbach, Adam, Strategy for Sustainability, Harvard Business Press, Boston (2009), page 9


[iii] Covey, Stephen, Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Revised Edition, Free Press (2004)