How to Build Your Company Vision
You know that you have succeeded when you have achieved the goal or accomplished the purpose, that you have set out to achieve or accomplish from the beginning. All those hours, resources and efforts that you have spent on planning, researching, and subsequently implementing those plans are directed towards a fixed objective. You know, from the outset, that you want your business to become something. You have a vision in your mind what you want it to be in the future.
But we are not talking about just any vision here. We are referring to your company’s, or your business’, vision.
In this article, I explore 1) the company vision, 2) how to build your company vision, and 3) case study: Disney’s company vision.
THE COMPANY VISION
A company vision, which comes in the form of a vision statement, is a clear declaration of what a company, business or organization wants to achieve or become in the future. It is not to be confused with the “mission statement”, which puts forth how the company, business, or organization intends to achieve a realization of that vision. The two are closely related, however, since the vision provides a plan for the future, while the mission statement is essentially an outline of the company’s purpose and operations.
Why does a company have to have a vision?
Simple. You cannot start planning if you do not know where you are going or you do not know what you want to become in the future. You cannot map out directions if you do not have a destination in sight.
You cannot start strategic business planning if you are cannot envision where your business wants to be.
You can liken your company vision to your business’ destination. Unfortunately, it is a fact that not all employees are fully aware of where their organization is heading, and having a vision will rectify that problem. All levels of the organization will be kept in the loop, so to speak, and this awareness will give them focus in carrying out their assigned tasks, duties and responsibilities.
HOW TO BUILD YOUR COMPANY VISION
You have probably come across several company visions through your readings. Some had a lot of impact while other seemed so-so. There are also those that you probably thought did not make a lot of sense. Some were well-written, others just didn’t make sense.
Creating the company vision for a business takes a lot more than putting words together to form several sentences.
Components of the Company Vision
To be effective, a company vision should have the following two major components:
1. Core ideology
What motivates the members of the organization to do their part in the operations of the business? What are the ideals that they are inspired to uphold as they go about in the performance of their functions? The answers to these questions make up the core ideology component of the company vision.
An organization is defined by its core ideology; it serves as its identity. The leaders of the organization may change. The market and the industry it belongs to may evolve. There may be new technological and management breakthroughs that impact the business and the industry as a whole. Still, the identity of the business will remain the same, its core ideology still intact.
The biggest names in business are in agreement when they say that it is important for the business to be self-aware. Before knowing where it is going, it must know itself first. After all, destinations may change, but the identity of the person or entity undertaking the journey will not.
In a similar way, the core ideology also serves as a guide for the organization. Through the course of business operations, it is the one thing that the organization will look back to in order to remind itself why it is even operating. Granted, the organization is expected (or hoped for) to grow, expand, and diversify as the years go by. As these changes are being wrought, the core ideology serves as the one constant thing that keeps the organization a cohesive unit.
The core ideology is primarily for internal purposes. It has to hold meaning to the members within the organization, regardless of whether or not it has an impact to those outside the organization.
A. Core values
If we are talking about the set of guiding principles that the business organization is following, we are referring to its core values. These are the essential and enduring tenets that the organization lives by.
Who decides what the company’s core values are? It is the company itself. It is the company that is supposed to know itself best; therefore, it is also the company that is in the best position to decide what its core values are.
Companies, even those that belong in the same industry or are engaged in the same line of business, are likely to have different core values. This happens. In fact, it is almost expected. This is because companies may have different opinions on what values are supposed to be core.
Core values are unchanging. This is the primary feature that sets it apart from the business strategies and operating practices. Some even mistake cultural norms observed by the organization as its core values. Take note that norms, especially the cultural ones, are sensitive to change, while core values are not. Nordstrom, which was founded in 1901, listed “service to the customer above all else” and “hard work and individual productivity” as two of its core values. More than a century later, these core values still remain in the company’s core ideology.
Note that an emphasis must be placed on the word “core”. If you ask a company to list its values, you will probably be presented with a very long list. Ask them to identify their core values, and the list is likely to be shortened to only a handful. Most companies, even the large ones, have an average of 5 core values. Again, just as there is no universal core value that applies to all businesses, there is also no set number of core values that must be present in all companies.
Take, for example, the core values of Merck & Co. and Novartis, two of the top pharmaceutical companies in the world.
Merck & Co. lists the following as its core values:
- Improving Life
- Ethics and Integrity
- Access to Health
- Diversity and Teamwork
Novartis, on the other hand, has the following:
- Passion, integrity, and courage
- Corporate responsibility
- Social and cultural diversity
You will immediately note that there are similarities and differences. But keep in mind that the absence of one item does not automatically mean that it is not one of the values of the business. It simply means that it is not one of their core values.
B. Core purpose
As the phrase implies, the core purpose states clearly why the organization exists.
There is a general confusion between the business’ core purpose and its goal. The core purpose answers the WHY of the organization’s existence; the goal answers the WHAT FOR question.
Many often interchange core ideology with the “core competencies” of the business. They are two different things; however, they are interconnected.
Core ideology is the broader concept, encompassing core competencies that, for its part, define the capabilities of the business or where it excels in. In a manner of speaking, core competencies are part of or are rooted in the core ideology of the organization.
2. Envisioned future
Unlike core ideology, which is fixed or unchanging, the envisioned future is more flexible. It is what the business aspires to achieve or to become in the future. There is a finish line up ahead; what does the business picture to be waiting at that finish line?
Business often set a goal for a certain period, say, 10, 20, or 30 years. The goal has to be something big; maybe even unattainable, when you think about where your business is at the moment.
Once the goal has been established, it should also have descriptions or scenarios of what it would be like for the business to achieve that goal. The descriptions have to be vivid and compelling so that members of the organization reading it cannot help but want to help in achieving those goals.
Steps Of How to Create Your Company Vision
Step 1: Set a time frame
How long is the time period within which you expect to achieve the goal that you have envisioned?
There is no fixed time frame for this purpose, although most businesses – even startups – tend to think long-term. Normally, time frames are for 5 years and 10 years. Others even reach 20 and 30 years.
Step 2: Write the first draft
This is deemed by many to be the most difficult part of creating a vision statement: getting started.
- Come up with a BHAV, also known as a “big, hairy, audacious vision”. Adopt a “dream big” attitude. It has to be huge, it has to be something incredible, and it has to be something really bold. In fact, at first glance, it may even seem unattainable. That’s perfectly all right. It is what you envision, after all.When developing a BHAV, you have to be specific, clear and concise about it. Anyone who reads your BHAV should be able to grasp it at first look. Your objective is for your big, hairy and audacious vision to come across without any need for questions or clarifications.
- Have a future-oriented mindset. Pretend that it is already the future, and you are already at the end of the time frame that you have previously set. Here, you assume that have already achieved your company vision.
- Before putting pen to paper, consider the following details:
- The size of the organization;
- The organizational structure;
- The organization’s claim to fame, if any;
- Your specific yardstick for measuring success;
- The kind of people needed by the organization, including their qualifications and skill sets;
- The attitude of the members of the organization towards their jobs, the company, and their working environment;
- What the organization will and will not do;
- The personal thoughts and feelings of the business owner or founder towards the business;
- The most important offerings of the organization to customers or clients;
- Public perception of your business.
Step 3: Get feedback
The best people to get the most relevant feedback from are those that will be implementing it: the members of the organization, from top management to the employees.
Step 4: Rewrite
Unless you are a seasoned “company vision creator or writer”, you are bound to encounter a need to do rewrites.
Step 5: Get feedback on the rewrite
Steps 4 and 5 may be done repeatedly, until such time that you are satisfied with the vision you have created.
Step 6: Share the vision
The final company vision must then be shared to those who are going to implement it, namely, the management and all the members of the organization.
Note that there is no fixed length of a company vision statement. It could be as short as a single sentence, or it could be longer, composed of more than a few sentences. Here are the characteristics of a good vision statement:
- It must be brief and to the point. Being verbose will not really help in making the vision statement as impactful as you’d want it to be.
- It must be for the long-term.
- It must not be too specific, as this may be limiting, such that the vision will no longer be applicable 10, 20 years down the road. However, it must not be too generic, either.
CASE STUDY: DISNEY’S COMPANY VISION
When it comes to entertainment brands, one of the most recognizable – if not THE MOST recognizable – brands in the world is Disney. Founded in 1923 by Walter Elias Disney, The Walt Disney Company was initially known as the Disney Brothers Cartoon Studio, focusing on animation projects. Over the decades, it has diversified its operations and has branched out into live-action film and television production, music and radio, publishing, online media, as well as theme parks and resorts. Today, this multinational company is said to be the second largest broadcasting and cable company globally.
Disney lumped its vision and mission in a couple of sentences:
“The mission of The Walt Disney Company is to be one of the world’s leading producers and providers of entertainment and information. Using our portfolio of brands to differentiate our content, services and consumer products, we seek to develop the most creative, innovative and profitable entertainment experiences and related products in the world.”
Disney’s Core Ideology
Disney’s core purpose, or its “reason for being”, is to make people happy or “to bring happiness to millions”. This is primarily through reigniting or rekindling the magical wonderment that can only be experienced during childhood. Mention Disney, and the phrase “magical experience” is not too far behind.
The core purpose of the company beyond just making money is very apparent. From the statement above, it is also easy to come up with the “creativity + innovation = profit” equation. Clearly, the statement still applies today.
The core purpose – to make people happy – is well-crafted because it is specific, but not too limiting. What if Disney stated its core purpose as “to create cartoons or animated shows”? There will certainly be a gaping hole in the vision statement as the company diversified and branched out into other fields.
Walt Disney listed the following as its core values, and they are all in support of the company’s core value.
- No cynicism;
- Nurturing and promulgation of wholesome American values;
- Creativity, dreams, and imagination;
- Fanatical attention to consistency and detail;
- Preservation and control of the Disney “magic”.
The envisioned future component was summed up in the first sentence:
“to be one of the world’s leading producers and providers of entertainment and information.”
The second statement states the HOW of the first statement, so it works more as a mission statement.
It is noticeable how the statement did not explicitly mention a time frame. This is actually a good move on the part of the creator of the company vision, since it did not box the company into a strict timeline. The statement is also encompassing, covering all operations of Disney, which is one of the most diversified companies around. It applies to all Disney’s businesses, which include Media Networks, Parks and Resorts, Studio Entertainment, Disney Consumer Products, and Disney Interactive.
Did Disney achieve that vision?
Certainly, it has, since it is now “one of the world’s leading producers and providers of entertainment and information”. But achieving the vision does not mean that it now has to stop and rest easy, since competition in the industry that Disney belongs to is very tough. For Disney, it is a continuous battle to ensure that the vision they have achieved remains to be true.
The public and the business community are more inclined to take a company seriously if it has a clear and very good company vision. With the right mix and balance of objectivity, creativity, passion, and familiarity with the business, you will definitely have no trouble creating a good company vision.