Jeff Bezos had a vision that the Internet would completely change brick-and-mortar-based retailing. Bill Gates believed that individuals would want to own personal computers. Muhammad Yunus believed that small amounts of money, carefully placed in developing countries, could change the world. These leaders had vision. So what is vision, and why should you care?
Your vision is where you want your organization to be in the future—not next year, but in the next three to five years. Vision represents your beliefs about what will happen and what matters. Your vision drives your decision making and inspires your employees to move in a common direction. As opposed to your mission statement, your company’s vision is internal. It is the glass through which you view the future and make decisions today. Your “vision statement” gives employees a sense of purpose, helping them see themselves as “building a cathedral rather than laying stones.”
When he launched the national newspaper USA Today twenty-five ago, Allen Neuharth, CEO of Gannett Company from 1973–86, was derided by both Wall Street analysts and the newspaper establishment: “Who would want to buy news snippets instead of real stories?” they asked.” The answer was millions of people would, eventually making USA Today the leading newspaper in the country. Neuharth had a vision of what could be, and more importantly, he had the ability to communicate that vision to his employees and stakeholders.
Working without a business vision leaves your organization susceptible to distraction at the hands of quarterly performance profiles or daily firefighting. Having a vision is like having a rudder—it lets you steer a course toward your goals. You do not need vision to have a successful organization, but if you want to grow, change, and leave something behind when you are gone, then having vision is a must.