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How to Create a Strategic Vision for a Company

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If there is one thing that paralyses a lot of Chief Execs, it's getting round to re-writing the company vision. Here's how we help the companies that we support to do it successfully.

A vision is where you want to get to. It's not a slogan, or a strap line. It's not the same as a strategy (which is how to get there).

 

what makes a good Vision FOR A COMPANY?

  1. Clarity: a good vision needs to be clear so avoid ambiguity.

  2. Easy to understand: you have a wide audience across all your stakeholders.

  3. Inspirational: there is no point setting off on a journey if no one wants to get to the destination.

  4. Honest: are you aspirational without being unrealistic? It's good to shoot for the stars, but make the first mountain achievable.

The final draft can be reworked to get to a version you are happy with, so don't rush it in an afternoon. When you think you are there, apply these tests and see if that helps to work out whether you have come up with something powerful and useful. I'll come back to some ideas about the process below.

 

how do you express the vision for a company?

It may not surprise you to know that this is a well-researched aspect of business, so you don't have to start from scratch and reinvent the wheel. There are a number of models out there but the one we have found to be easiest to understand and most effective is the Collins Porras Model (download our template here.)

The Collins Porras model splits the vision into two main components:

  • The Core Ideology

  • The Envisioned Future

This is useful as it helps you distinguish between some of the 'why' and 'how' stuff which are important (the ideology), from the 'what'. We often find when we run sessions with senior teams that the answers get crossed over. So for example if we are asking about the vision of the future, we get lots of 'values' describing what we think is important. This is a useful model as we can put the answers in the right places regardless of where they come out during the process.

These two main parts are then further split down to give four main areas to focus on:

  • Core Ideology

    • Values

    • Purpose

  • Envisioned Future

    • Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG)

    • Vivid Descriptions of the Future


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what does each part of the model mean?

  • Values - the beliefs you have about how to behave (not the ones you wish you had). These are quite difficult to change and are led from the top by demonstrating these values every day;

  • Purpose - the 30 year guiding star that you may never reach, but it's worth trying for. It inspires people to dedicate their careers to you, to help achieve the shared purpose;

  • BHAG - the first mountain. 2-3 year horizon. Could be measurable but doesn't have to be. Make sure it's Big and Audacious. Something that you are likely to achieve in a year anyway is not a BHAG;

  • Vivid Descriptions - what does it look like when you get there. These need to be quite different from what it looks like now as its the gap between the two that drives the strategy. This what you will actually DO to get there, so its important to make sure this is a full set.

How to run the collins porras process

There are two main approaches we have used:

  1. Off-site "Strategy Day"

  2. Weekly senior meetings to iterate

Option 1 is tempting as it 'gets it over with' and concentrates everyone's minds. Option 2 takes longer in terms of weeks, although probably no longer in total hours.

Both can work, but our preference is Option 2. It gives time for people to reflect, sleep on it, discuss with colleagues, gather more information and come up with new ideas.

Either way, print out the poster A0 or larger, stick it on the wall and get the post-its out. The modern zoom-friendly way is to project the PowerPoint version and use post-it 'shapes' to do the same thing.

Start from left to right, but expect thoughts and contributions to come out in any random order. Your job is to put the right things in the right spaces as you go along. Challenge it all using the 'What makes a good vision' list above.

You might try one section per week, but expect some to take several sessions. This isn't to be rushed. It could define your company's vision for many years to come. If you sense yourselves getting stuck, adjourn and come back to it.

 

How to turn a vision in to a strategy

Once you know where you are going you can start to plan how to get there.

Use what you have written down to create a 'Gap Analysis'. This lists all the things you have to do over the next few years.

If you've got this far, it's time you had a look at our page on Strategy.


A VISION for Growth

In our experience, business owners often start to think seriously about their vision when they are looking for a step change in growth.

We put together a free e-book which talks through the Collins-Porras vision and how it can be used to help systemise and drive a growth strategy.

 

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