So What’s the Plan? Set your vision and strategy for business transformation

Does your company have an organizational vision? A vision that you, as the senior leader communicates on a regular basis, not just pulled out once a year for sales or budget meetings? Is the vision something that every employee understands, believes, and executes on?

PlanIf so, congratulations? But you’re probably the exception rather than the rule.

Simply put, the vision defines and highlights what the company is going to look like when “it grows up.” When I was growing up, I wanted to fly military fighter aircraft; that was my vision at the time. It was my motivation and defined who and what I wanted to become. That vision led me through my choices for education, military service and my ultimate career path. The vision was always out there as my guide to the future I wanted.

The same holds true for business, just on a larger scale. An organizational vision, once defined, must be communicated – regularly – to all employees. Preach, preach, preach! The vision needs to be clear – here’s where we want to be as a company, here’s what it’s going to look and feel like when we get there, here’s why we’re going in this direction. Everyone in the company needs to tangibly be connected to the vision – see it, feel it, smell it, taste it, and be it!

Creating an active, living vision like this is vital in order to have the organization move forward. If you’re looking for a business transformation, defining the vision is one of the first steps.

A strong clear vision is one that is known and supported from the CEO, senior staff, managers, right down to the shop floor. Without it you’ll have a chaotic organization, a ship without a rudder, employees who don’t know in what direction leadership wants them to move. They’re lost, and that’s reflected in employee morale, customer satisfaction-and the bottom line.

Strategies are the action plans developed to bring the vision to life. How are we getting from Point A to Point B? This is another area where troubled companies too often operate without a clearly defined and documented plan. Departments set their own individual priorities based on what they think “upstairs” wants; they may, or may not work at cross-purposes with other departments. And don’t mistake activity for strategy. If not following a plan, a business is like a hamster on a wheel, looking busy, but getting nowhere.

Here’s a simple example of strategy. Suppose I’m planning a trip from Texas to California to see my daughter get married-that’s my vision. Champagne corks, lots of smiles, and maybe a few tears. Strategy encompasses all the elements that make up the planning of this trip. Am I flying or driving? Where’s the best place to stop along the way to refuel or spend the night? What’s the difference in cost between various options? What clothes are needed? Does the car need maintenance to make a long trip? How can I ensure that I arrive by a certain date? What’s the plan?

There is a lot to consider even for a simple trip like this, and a business has many more complex moving parts to consider. Start at the top with a high level overall strategy that directly reflects the vision. Create four to six primary directives, overarching key elements that will set the tone. Break down the directives into sub-directives or tactics; these might work as individual departmental strategies. All strategies flow into supporting the vision, and again, as with vision, strategies need to be clearly defined and communicated with consistency.

It doesn’t have to be overwhelming! One of my personal heroes is General George S. Patton, who said it best: “It is funny how easy it is to do things once one as a plan to do.”