Somebody smart said “the best way to predict the future is to create it”.[i] Whoever it was has a point. Guessing and muddling through are tenuous at best. For businesses, envisioning the future, then taking systematic actions to bring it about is a better idea. The Vision Thing, a post to this blog from the beginning of last year, elaborates on just that.
This post brings back The Vision Thing, and then appends some thoughts on the scope of management awareness, now and tomorrow. … C.H.
The Vision Thing
From: 3 January 2013
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 [ii], today-like-yesterday; mind-your-own-business manufacturing operations were possible. To even aspire to thrive in perpetuity [iii], 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” [iv]. Better yet, start with a clear idea expressed clearly and communicated effectively. The Business Dictionary defines Vision Statement [v] 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.
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.
Additional comments, 11 September 2014
The scope of issues that demand constant management attention is rapidly expanding. Since The Vision Thing was written 20-odd months ago, it has become quite clear that two of the four “seismic scale phenomena” listed near the top of that post have been significantly understated.
“Transparency” is only one issue of very many associated with emerging technology, especially (but not exclusively) technology involving communications – communications among people, communications among machines, and communications between people and machines. So, change “transparency” to “Technology”.
Likewise, the recent “Global Recession” was an effect of interaction among Globalization and evolving national and international financial systems. As painful as the last global recession was, today’s real concern is the next global recession. That event, which is as inevitable as death and taxes, will occur when Globalization interacts with the wrong combination of financial and political demographics and trends. Accordingly, widen “Global Recession” to “Demographics & Trends”.
The Vision Thing suggest the example of Interface Corporation’s Vision Statement, which “spells out what they intend to accomplish and when they expect to do so”. Such a statement can also be a constraint when it isn’t aggressive enough. Don’t let fear of falling short limit your intentions. Thinking Big Enough? [vi] — a recent post to this blog – illustrates just how big BIG can be.
Thoughtful comments and experience reports are always appreciated.
… Chuck Harrington (Chuck@JeraSustainableDevelopment.com)
P.S: Contact me when your organization is ready to pursue Sustainability … CH
This blog and associated website (www.JeraSustainableDevelopment.com) 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 Thursday mornings.
[i] I have seen this quote attributed to Abraham Lincoln and to Peter Drucker. Thanks to whomever it was.
[ii] For more on zooming in and zooming out, see Green and the Zoom Lens Mind, this blog, http://blog.jerasustainabledevelopment.com/2012/02/22/green-and-the-zoom-lens-mind/
[iii] Werbach, Adam, Strategy for Sustainability, Harvard Business Press, Boston (2009), page 9
[iv] Covey, Stephen, Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Revised Edition, Free Press (2004)
[vi] See Thinking Big Enough?, this blog, http://jerasustainabledevelopment.com/2014/06/04/thinking-big-enough/