INSIGHTS: FINDING YOUR ‘VISION THING’
Today, an expression of your business’s vision is part of the standard fodder for a dotcom’s 'about us' section. It’s often not a major focus in creating website content, the copywriter just tweaks preexisting corporate boilerplate text on vision and business strategy. But there is value in taking a step back to make sure you have really captured your ‘vision thing,' and have it in the right form on your website.
The term ‘vision thing’ captures the somewhat elusive nature of what a vision should be, and has an historical pedigree going back over three decades. In 1987, a long time ago, far, far away in another US presidential universe George Bush (the first President Bush) became hamstrung by his disregard for the ‘vision thing.' He used it dismissively in the run up to his inauguration. Subsequently during his presidency it was repeatedly played back to imply his lack of leadership – and vision.
But ‘vision thing’ isn't such a bad term. A leader or leadership team should articulate the direction they are taking their group, business or nation in and the process to get to it can be a bit roundabout. Looking at some of the final results on the web today in the corporate world they can vary from bold to pretty standard.
Amazon wants ‘to be earth’s most customer centric company; to build a place where people can come to find and discover anything they might want to buy online.' SAP starts with ‘our purpose is to help the world run better and improve people’s live,’ and then has a couple of sentences on promise and commitment, ending with ...'Together, with our customers and partners, we can transform industries, grow economies, lift up societies, and sustain our environment.’ Britvic’s goal is to be ‘the most dynamic, creative and admired soft drinks company in the world.’
There are a lot of different schools of thought on what to call 'vision things.' We often spend a lot of time debating this with clients. Should it be a vision, mission or purpose? Is the mission the big picture or BHAG (big, hairy audacious goal)? If so is vision just our roadmap to get there? Or is vision the inspiring view of the future and mission the roadmap? Do we really need a purpose, or even a core purpose, rather than a mission? Should it be a tagline?
In the end, whatever an organisation chooses to call it, a ‘vision thing’ needs to answer two simple questions if it is going to be more than corporate boilerplate.
First, what is the future we believe in, and our role in it? Second, how are we going to get there?
The important characteristics of a ‘vision thing’ are that it should do what is says on the tin, it should be visionary – paint an aspirational picture of where you are going, as well as be missionary, indicating how you are going to get there. Being visionary and missionary is easy to say, but harder to arrive at and agree on. The essence should be captured in a brief statement, but it also needs to be demonstrated and seen to be part of the culture of your organisation.
The statement might go into your 'about us' section, but where it really needs to be expressed is in other content. That might be alongside video content telling the story about where that vision comes from or will take you, or it might be in content such as customer case studies or employee stories elsewhere on the website, or used separately that bring to life and make that ‘vision thing’ resonant and relevant.
Whatever you choose to call it is up to you, and the story about your business you want to tell. Just avoid simply dropping the text into a page on your site – it deserves more!
Marcus Mitchel is the director of strategy at SampsonMay