Dreaming a dream – The importance of vision

If you don’t have a dream

How’re you going to make a dream come true?

Oscar Hammerstein II – South Pacific

In a previous post I wrote about having a purpose or mission, now I want to look at the related but different concept of vision. For me the vision is that clear picture of what it is we want to do or where we want to be in the future – without it, as the song says, if we don’t have a dream how’re we going to make a dream come true?

There are four different types of vision I’m interested in:

  • Organisational vision
  • Programme Vision
  • Project Vision
  • Personal Vision

Organisational Vision

As with purpose in an earlier post, I’m not thinking of the often rather bland Mission, Vision and Values statements beloved of CEOs (and management consultants) and mostly ignored by everyone else. What I am interested in is a real image of where the organisation wants to go.

Many organisations muddle along just fine without one, but organisations with a real vision of their future have a real star to guide themselves, often manifesting in clear decision-making, a strong culture and teams, and tight alignment of people and objectives. The performance of these organisations is often outstanding – as long as the vision remains valid and achievable.

I have been lucky to have worked for a few of these organisations and really enjoyed the sense of purpose they have. However there is often a dark side, they can self-destruct. People who don’t match the vision tend to get expelled, leading to a monoculture, or it simply isn’t possible to live up to the vision, or the environment changes but the vision doesn’t leaving the organisation marooned.

The trick with organisations with very strong cultures is to keep developing the vision and ensuring it doesn’t consume everyone within the team.

Programme Vision

For me this is what really drives programmes, gets them off the ground and keeps them going. It is the sizzle rather than the sausage that you sell to stakeholders to get them interested and engaged, and provides the overall guidance (that star again!) to keep them on track as they proceed.

I have often used the early parts of the thinking tool described in an earlier post to engage stakeholders and build the vision. That though, is often the easy part, converting the fine rhetoric of the vision into a detailed blueprint (in the MSP sense) and plan, and getting it agreed is often much more difficult. I will return to this in a future post.

Project Vision

In many ways similar to Programme Vision but as the output of a project is much more defined than the outcomes of a programme, it too will be a much tighter more defined vision. It may be expressed as renderings, CAD or physical models, any way to clearly share that vision will work.

Using formal descriptions such as UML or Use Cases or formal requirements at an early stage in the project may not be the best solution, all too often I’ve seen stakeholders, particularly users, agree to these definitions only to find that when the product is delivered it isn’t what they thought.

Personal Vision

Some people are lucky enough to have a guiding vision about where they want their life to go, some of these are even luckier in that they can achieve it!

I’ve only had this once, I had a dream about working for a consulting business employing only the best most, creative people delivering absolutely excellent products without all the hassle and problems of a big organisation, oh and working in a beautiful country house setting. A few weeks later I went to an interview there, remarkably got the job and spent several wonderful – if rather pressured years there.

Apart from this, my career has taken me where the wind has blown me – into a whole lot of unexpected and fascinating directions – so don’t be worried by a lack of personal vision, just play the cards you are dealt as best you can, I’ve had a lot of fun doing just that.

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