If you want to Inspire and Lead Change in an Organization, you need a vision.
In order to carry a positive action, we must deliver here a positive vision.
- Dalai Lama
Do you need to make and communicate a change in your organization, but you're overwhelmed by the first steps and uncertain about how to proceed? Are you struggling with creating a shared sense of ownership and energy for your organization's next growth phase? It all starts with a vision, and this article gives you six steps to create that vision and make it a reality for your organization.
I have successfully led organizations and teams in transformative growth throughout my career. I came to the USA for UNHCR as a consultant in 2011 when it was raising around $3Million annually. I left the CEO position in January 2023, and the organization was raising over $223 million. That transformation would not be possible without a simple vision paper drafted before I started in the role of CEO. My vision paper clearly set up a path for our future state and what would be required to get our organization there. I consider that vision paper a game-changer that ensured the success of my organization over the next 8 years.
Creating a vision for your organization is essential for every successful leader. The vision determines the organization's direction, purpose, and future state. If you aren't clear on where you are now, where you want to go, and how you will get there, how can you expect to be successful?
Organizations without a longer-term vision for the organization are unlikely to achieve sustainable growth or keep staff and stakeholders engaged. Investing in developing a vision statement and ensuring inputs and alignment with all stakeholders can be a challenge for organizations and teams. "We are already pressed to get through our day-to-day to-do lists and quarterly targets." We don't have the time or the resources for this sort of exercise" These are comments I often hear from new clients and the organizations I work with.
Your ability to inspire and lead an organization requires creating and communicating a shared vision for the future. What ultimately do you want to achieve for your organization? What will you, your staff, and your stakeholders require to accomplish that vision? Your organization's vision should be a clear, inspiring, and concise statement that expresses the desired future state of your organization. Here are six steps to help you create a vision for your organization:
Reflect on your organization's purpose: Before creating a vision statement, it's essential to understand your organization's purpose. What is the reason for its existence, who are your audiences/customers/ consumers, and what problems does it aim to solve? Reflect on these questions to better understand your organization's mission and values. Before joining USA for UNHCR as CEO in 2014, I took several weeks to dig into the organization's data and history to determine what success would look like for our organization. The opportunity to research and reflect on the history and results of the organization and what could be possible was invaluable. It ensured that I came to the position with a real sense of what was in place and what could be achieved if we worked differently.
Envision the future: Imagine what your organization could look like. What do you want to achieve in the long term? What impact do you want to have on your stakeholders? Visualize the ideal state of your organization.
Involve your team: Creating a vision for your organization should be collaborative. Involve your team and stakeholders in developing the vision statement to ensure buy-in and commitment to its implementation. My clients find facilitated staff and board retreats and workshops are a highly effective way of encouraging reflection on past performance, brainstorming, and alignment around a vision that might be possible. Alignment and trust across the organization are much easier if you authentically engage stakeholders in creating the vision for the future. If people can see themselves and their inputs in the outcomes, buy-in will likely occur. To achieve remarkable revenue growth at USA for the UNHCR, we needed to invest time and resources in gaining insights, perspectives, and ideas from our board, staff, donors, and supporters.
Use clear and inspiring language and graphics: Your vision statement should be concise and inspiring. Use language and illustrations that inspire and motivate your team and stakeholders, and communicate the future state of your organization memorably and compellingly. The best vision papers are often infographics that can, with a single graphic, outline the vision for the organization. No vision paper should be more than three pages! This is not a detailed strategic plan but a concise, inspiring document outlining what your organization wants to achieve and how it will move forward.
Align with your values and mission: Ensure your vision statement aligns with your organization's values and mission. It should be a natural extension of your organization's purpose and guide decision-making, goal-setting, communications, and recruitment.
Review and refine: Once you have created your vision statement, review it regularly and refine it as needed. This document should serve as a touchstone for your team and your stakeholders. As your organization grows and evolves, your vision may need to be updated to reflect changes in the external environment or internal priorities.
Remember that a vision statement is a living document that should guide your organization's decision-making and direction. It should be inspiring and motivational and serve as a guidepost for your organization's long-term success. The best vision statements will engage staff, your board, and your stakeholders and will inspire and encourage alignment and successful execution.