Do you REALLY need a vision statement?

VisionMost companies have a vision statement somewhere on their website. However, how much effort do business leaders really put into their vision statement? Isn’t a vision statement just “fluff” and really not relevant for a company to grow and succeed?

A vision statement is sometimes very generic. It is in those instances, when the vision statement is indeed nothing more than fluff, probably created by the marketing department, without giving thought to the “raison d’être” of the business.

You want an example? Sure: ““Our vision is to develop, deploy, and manage a diverse set of scalable and strategic knowledge management tools to serve our customers, improving the possibility of overall satisfaction among our diverse customer profiles.” – YUCK. What the heck does it even mean?

By doing so, a huge opportunity is wasted. Without a very clear and concise vision statement, people may not even know what the company they work for, stands for.  “So what” – I hear you say. My people come to work, they do the job they get paid for, and all is swell. – Is it really? Are your people just motivated by the money you pay them, or are they excited to be part of your organisation?

One reason – and often in business very neglected – for people to come to work is the ability to participate and contribute to a higher cause.

Non governmental organizations (NGO’s) don’t pay very well. Neither does the (non-profit) church. Journalists, teachers, nurses, firemen and other every day heroes are not paid riches at all. Why do people still pursue those jobs? Because those jobs make them feel good about themselves. They contribute to a higher cause, and money suddenly plays a significantly lesser role.

I believe that this motivation is not limited to people in social functions, but applies across the board. Just ask yourself: do you really only work for money? You probably don’t. And neither are your employees. They work for recognition, for status, for pride.  If you can give them that in their job, then money itself is no longer so important.

Instead of paying more, try to give your employees other reasons to stay and to work at optimum performance: Rally them behind a higher cause. Find a high and lofty goal that you as an organization would want to achieve, and focus your internal communication towards this higher goal.

A great example of this can be found by looking at Apple’s history: In the early 80’s, Apple focused their organization to “fight for the control of computer technology against Big Blue (IBM)”. Have a look at their 1984 Super Bowl Commercial.  

Steve Jobs earlier introduced this fight against Big Blue during a keynote address in late 1983 “Apple is perceived to be the only hope to offer IBM a run for its money. Dealers, initially welcoming IBM with open arms, now fear an IBM dominated and controlled future. They are increasingly and desperately turning back to Apple as the only force that can ensure their future freedom

Strong words. But with such direction, wouldn’t you want to be part of a “movement” (rather than being a minion in an organization) to “help mankind break free from the shackles of a giant computer company controlling the world”? Ok – this may be exaggerating, but it does hit the point. So what if I pay you slightly less than your peers at Compaq, IBM, or other similar companies during this time? Wouldn’t you still rather “save mankind” or “built another box”?

So think about  it when you put together your vision statement. Make it clear, compelling and above all give your employees a reason why they work for the company beyond the monthly paycheck.

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