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Has your CEO or president articulated a clear company vision of what your company should become in three to five years? A well-defined vision becomes the basis for all business strategies and decisions, large and small. Without a company vision, your business can’t develop a coherent strategy that leads toward the desired result. Executives can’t weigh short-term plans against long-term goals. Ultimately, decisions should be made by asking, “Does this move us toward our business vision?”
Yet, many businesses "wing it" with vague company visions, and cost/benefit analyses for isolated decisions, and they often fail as a result. Or maybe the business had a vision for its first year, but that vision no longer fits. Signals of a lack of company vision are present long before eventual failure. You can see it in the indecision at the executive level, lack of direction among middle managers, and confusion, delays, and mistakes on the front lines.
The consequences of not guiding your business with a clearly articulated business vision can be harsh.
Should your business be hierarchical and traditional? Or, should it have a flatter, modern structure with more employees being able to contribute to key business decisions? When executives and managers leave, should they be replaced? Or should the organizational structure evolve based on the business’ progression toward its goals? These are critical questions that cannot be effectively answered without a clear company vision.
Managers guide their teams effectively when they know where they are heading. Employees want to understand the reasons for managerial and executive decisions, and being able to provide reasons is essential to motivating and engaging a team. If a manager can’t answer a "why" question, he or she feels rudderless. Vision gives your managers the "why," and guides their time and resource allocation. From there, they can apply their training and talents to guide the employees who execute on the company vision.
Team members need to feel a sense of purpose; it’s what unifies them, energizes them, and enables them to feel engaged in daily activities. Without strong employee engagement, your business cannot achieve maximum productivity. Eventually, you will lose top talent to competitors. It’s also much harder to attract top talent without being able to sell a clear and compelling company vision.
Without the ability to bounce potential resource allocations against a long-term company vision, your business investments are made based on executive instincts and hunches which may not be in alignment. Waste becomes inevitable. Planning and strategies arise from a clear company vision, and effective budgeting follows. If funds are dispersed "on the fly," your business may be short on money for necessary ongoing investments in payroll and invoice payments; you may be unable to strike when opportunities are presented that would align with a vision.
Executives may add new lines of business and revenue streams arbitrarily without a unifying company vision. After all, adding measurable, incremental value to the business determines their worth. But each executive adding value in ways that aren’t complimentary and don’t form a coherent strategy leads to overextension and an inefficient business that customers can’t understand. For example, electronics maker LG exited the mobile phone business. Media pundits and product reviewers believed it was for a lack of vision as to what the line of phones should do for the business.
Two of the crucial strategies that emerge from a clear vision are how to grow profit margins and where to invest profits. Without a clear business vision from the company’s top leader, you can’t arrive at key financial metrics to achieve, or prioritize for reinvesting. This means you can’t sell a direction and long-term business forecast to investors. If investors consistently pass on your business, growth prospects dim dramatically, and it can be hard to pass the business on when the time comes.
So what does your business intend to be in three to five years? If everyone in your organization isn’t able to answer this question quickly, it’s time to define, communicate, and execute a clear company vision to take your business forward with confidence.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on April 11, 2022 and has been revamped and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.
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