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Crafting a Statement of Strategic Vision

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Top management’s views and conclusions about the company’s long-term direction and what product-customer-market-technology mix seems optimal for the road ahead constitute a strategic vision for the company. A strategic vision delineates management’s aspirations for the business, providing a panoramic view of “where we are going” and a convincing rationale for why this makes good business sense for the company. A strategic vision thus points an organization in a particular direction, charts a strategic path for it to follow in preparing for the future, and molds organizational Identity. A clearly articulated strategic vision communicates management’s aspirations to stakeholders and helps steer the energies of company personnel in a common direction.Well-conceived visions are distinctive and specific to a particular organization. They avoid feel-good statements like “We will become a global leader and the first choice of customers in every market we choose to serve”—which could apply to hundreds of organizations. Likewise, a strategic vision proclaiming management’s quest “to be the market leader” or “to be the most innovative” or “to be recognized as the best company in the industry” offer scant guidance about a company’s direction or the kind of company that management is striving to build. A vision statement is just a bunch of meaningless words unless it paints a picture of the company’s long-term direction and the market position(s) that company leaders are striving to stake out.

Be graphic—Paint a clear picture of where the company is headed and the market position(s) the company is striving to stake out.

Be forward-looking and directional—Describe the strategic course that management has charted and the kinds of product-market-customer-technology changes that will help the company prepare for the future.

Keep it focused—Be specific enough to provide managers with guidance in making decisions and allocating resources.

Have some wiggle room —Language that allows some flexibility is good. The directional course may have to be adjusted as market-customer-technology circumstances change and coming up with a new vision statement every one-to-three years signals rudderless management.

Be sure the journey is feasible —The path and direction should be within the realm of what the company can pursue and accomplish; over time, a company should be able to demonstrate measurable progress in achieving the vision. Indicate why the directional path makes good business sense —The directional path should be in the long-term interests of stakeholders (especially shareowners, employees, and customers).

Don’t be vague or incomplete —Never skimp on specifics that delineate where the company is headed or how the company int ends to prepare for the future. Don’t dwell on the present —a vision is not about what a company once did or does now; it’s about “where we are going.”

Don’t use overly broad language —All-inclusive language that gives the company license to head in most any direction, pursue most any opportunity, or enter most any business must beavoided.

Don’t state the vision in bland or uninspiring terms — The best vision statements have thepower to motivate company personnel and inspire shareholder confidence about the company’s direction or future prospects.

Don’t be generic —A vision statement that could apply to companies in any of several industries (or to any of several companies in the same industry) is incapable of giving a company its own unique identity. Don’t rely on superlatives —Visions that claim the company’s strategic course is one of being the “best” or “the most successful” or “a recognized leader” or the “global leader” usually shortchange the essential and revealing specifics about the path the company is taking to get there.