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A Vision of the Future
by Ray Silverstein

Yogi Berra said, "You've got to be careful if you don't know where you are going, because you might not get there." A major responsibility of the progres-sive business leader is to look to the future, to have a picture, dream, purpose or goal...in short, a vision!

Why is a vision important? Studies have found those companies where the vision is shared and is bought into by the organization, achieve more and are better places to work. These studies have also found that one of the most important criteria employees want of their leader is a vision or dream. This is second only to integrity. A mission statement is not vision. The mission statement tells what you are. The vision is the goal or destination of where you want to go. It is a long term direction of imagining greater things are ahead. A vision is not a wishful thought but one that is realistic and will make the company and its employees better.

Vision is not planning. It is an intuitive feel of where you want to go, what you want to look like and how you will feel. Planning is objectives and tactical activities. Planning can be defined by short term results. A vision is sometimes hard to put your arms around because it is a philosophy or mental picture.

Is having a vision enough? The answer simply stated is NO! The vision must be shared and bought into by the organization. Most importantly, it must be continu-ously communicated and feedback established to make sure it is understood.

Sandra Kurtzig, founder and chairperson of ASK Computer Systems, said, "You have to have focus when starting a company." Vision gives that focus. Imagine the leader of the company running a movie projector. If the film is out of focus and not clear to the audience, who do they get upset with? The person running the projec-tor, of course. The job of the leader is to be able to focus and make sure the image is clear for all to see.

The leader must not only participate and create the vision, but also communicate it. The followers do not have any idea of what their leader's vision is until the leader describes it. The picture that is created in their minds is dependent on how well it is described to them. If it is not, a leader's vision of an apple might be an orange by the time it gets to middle management. By the time it reaches the general worker, it might very well be a lemon.

Another analogy of this is the "Jigsaw Puzzle Principle." If you know what the picture on the cover of the box looks like, it is much easier to put the puzzle together. In each company, people have different pieces of the organizational puzzle. They may have detailed descriptions of their roles and responsibilities, but may not have the information to see the big picture.

To create your vision, first think about your past. Consider and analyze the high spots and what strengths you received from them. Next, determine what you want to accomplish and why. Keep asking yourself why. Try writing a short vision state-ment using your past experiences and intuition.

Remember, leaders are the innovators who inspire trust, challenge the status quo and have long range perspectives. Jack Welch, Chairman of General Electric stated, "Good business leaders create a vision, articulate the vision, passionately own the vision, and relentlessly drive it to completion."

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