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The Purpose of a Vision Within an Organization

One definition of vision comes from Burt Nanus, a well-known expert on the subject. Nanus defines a vision as a realistic, credible, attractive future for [an] organization. Let's disect this definition:

? Realistic: A vision must be based in reality to be meaningful for an organization. For example, if you're developing a vision for a computer software company that has carved out a small niche in the market developing instructional software and has a 1.5 percent share of the computer software market, a vision to overtake Microsoft and dominate the software market is not realistic!

? Credible: A vision must be believable to be relevant. To whom must a vision be credible? Most importantly, to the employees or members of the organization. If the members of the organization do not find the vision credible, it will not be meaningful or serve a useful purpose. One of the purposes of a vision is to inspire those in the organization to achieve a level of excellence, and to provide purpose and direction for the work of those employees. A vision which is not credible will accomplish neither of these ends (Nanus, 2010).

? Attractive: If a vision is going to inspire and motivate those in the organization, it must be attractive. People must want to be part of this future that's envisioned for the organization.

? Future: A vision is not in the present, it is in the future. In this respect, the image of the leader gazing off into the distance to formulate a vision may not be a bad one. A vision is not where you are now, it's where you want to be in the future (Nanus, 2010). (If you reach or attain a vision, and it's no longer in the future, but in the present, is it still a vision?)
Nanus goes on to say that the right vision for an organization, one that is a realistic, credible, attractive future for that organization, can accomplish a number of things for the organization:

? It attracts commitment and energizes people. This is one of the primary reasons for having a vision for an organization: its motivational effect. When people can see that the organization is committed to a vision-and that entails more than just having a vision statement-it generates enthusiasm about the course the organization intends to follow, and increases the commitment of people to work toward achieving that vision (Nanus, 2010).

? It creates meaning in workers' lives. A vision allows people to feel like they are part of a greater whole, and hence provides meaning for their work. The right vision will mean something to everyone in the organization if they can see how what they do contributes to that vision. Consider the difference between the hotel service worker who can only say, "I make beds and clean bathrooms," to the one who can also say, "I'm part of a team committed to becoming the worldwide leader in providing quality service to our hotel guests." The work is the same, but the context and meaning of the work is different.

Solution Preview

One definition of vision comes from Burt Nanus, a well-known expert on the subject. Nanus defines a vision as a realistic, credible, attractive future for [an] organization. Let's disect this definition:

? Realistic: A vision must be based in reality to be meaningful for an organization. For example, if you're developing a vision for a computer software company that has carved out a small niche in the market developing instructional software and has a 1.5 percent share of the computer software market, a vision to overtake Microsoft and dominate the software market is not realistic!

? Credible: A vision must be believable to be relevant. To whom must a vision be credible? Most importantly, to the employees or members of the organization. If the members of the organization do not find the vision credible, it will not be meaningful or serve a useful purpose. One of the purposes of a vision is to inspire those in the organization to achieve a level of excellence, and to provide purpose and direction for the work of those employees. A vision which is not credible will accomplish neither of these ends (Nanus, 2010).

? Attractive: If a vision is going to inspire and motivate those in the organization, it must be attractive. People must want to be part of this future that's envisioned for the organization.

? Future: A vision is not in the present, it is in the future. In this respect, the image of the leader gazing off into the distance to formulate a vision may not be a bad one. A ...

Solution Summary

An organization must and can develop a strategic plan that includes specific and measurable goals to implement a vision. A comprehensive plan will recognize where the organization is today, and cover all the areas where action is needed to move toward the vision. In addition to being specific and measurable, actions should clearly state who is responsible for their completion. Actions should have milestones tied to them so progress toward the goals can be measured (Nanus, 2010).

Implementing the vision does not stop with the formulation of a strategic plan - the organization that stops at this point is not much better off than one that stops when the vision is formulated. Real implementation of a vision is in the execution of the strategic plan throughout the organization, in the continual monitoring of progress toward the vision, and in the continual revision of the strategic plan as changes in the organization or its environment necessitate. The bottom line is that visioning is not a discrete event, but rather an ongoing process (Nanus, 2010).

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