A Vision statement is the most powerful motivator at leaderships' disposal. Vision describes 'where and when' - it paints a compelling picture of the company at some future point in time. President John F. Kennedy's challenge to land a man on the moon and bring him back safely before the end of the decade is a classic example of a Vision. In his statement there was no question as to where the United States was going and what constituted success. With this Vision firmly implanted, the focus and energy of all parties involved immediately moved to strategizing how to make it happen.
Vision statements can be short, such as Microsoft Corporation's 'A PC on every desktop and in every home,' or lengthy, as in the case of Intuit, Inc.'s 'Vision for 2010' found on their website:
Intuit is the preeminent provider of automated financial solutions for small businesses and individuals. We are renowned as the company whose leadership and revolutionary innovations in financial services and software have delivered breakthrough value to our customers in every facet of their financial lives: banking, borrowing, investing, and beyond. We are a large, growing, multinational company. Both our competitors and our shareholders respect us for our continued ability to create and establish leadership in huge, new markets. Intuit's customer focus is legendary. Our unwavering devotion to outstanding quality ± in our customer care, as well as in our products and services ± inspires our customers' confidence and enthusiasm.
Our products and services strike a careful balance between evolution - seeking out, understanding, and responding to our customers' needs and desires - and revolution - continually delighting our customers with valuable new ideas they haven't even thought of. People around the world use our products and access our services both on the PC and other computing devices. We have become an integral part of their daily lives. Our customers rely on our solutions to help them simplify and organize their finances, make better financial decisions, save money, and do it all quickly, easily and with greater confidence thanks to our tools, information, and services. Even though Intuit is known for the quality of its products and services, we know that the quality of our people is the foundation of our success.
The statement is remarkably bold in that it discusses the businesses and industries that they will be in, their position within them and their reputation. It describes the legacy that they've created (at this future point in time) from servicing customers with a focus on quality; the balance between 'evolution and revolution' that drives the products that they've created; and the fact that these products have become an integral part of the daily lives of their customers.
While leaving plenty of room for the influence of unknown variables, they have painted a detailed and compelling picture of a destination point in the future. Leaders can truly evaluate the plans and strategies they are developing to assess whether they get the company closer to realizing their Vision. Vision propels a company forward, even in the face of discouraging odds. If it is compelling and meaningful, individuals will embrace it on a personal level and go to great lengths to make it happen. Every employee of a company should be able to talk to it and about it, and explain how their daily activities contribute to its realization. If they cannot, then the Vision probably hasn't been developed at the right level of abstraction, or management has not developed a compelling case.
The level of abstraction of Vision statements allows them to persist over time, even in business environments where the power, vigor, and competitive- ness forces are immense. For example, during a 1999 speech announcing the Windows CE operating system for portable devices, Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates announced that Microsoft would be revising its original Vision of ªa computer on every desk running Microsoft software,º inferring that this context was limiting in a world that was seeing the explosive growth of portable devices. A new Vision arose of ªanytime, anyplace, any device - leveraging our software and PC assets. 'This is the first time in our 25-year history we've actually changed our Vision statement,' said Gates.
Twenty-five years of consistency is a great example of persistent Vision. It is a credit to Bill Gates that he recognizes the need to explicitly change it so that Microsoft employees will be empowered to explore opportunities in new areas that previously would have appeared to be inconsistent with the stated direc- tion of the company, and so that customers, suppliers, and other stakeholders will be aware of new forces in the marketplace.