As we respond to the chaos around us, it can be tempting to look forward to when we are past this and “things are normal again.” Our current environment feels overwhelming and uncertain. The most appealing thing is to hide under a blanket. The most strategically important thing might be to take action. The key challenge lies in defining the action to take, and figuring out how best to coordinate and lead in a time where nothing feels certain.
The future is a big, scary and uncertain place. It’s difficult to think about how things may play out. It’s even more difficult at times to define how we want things to play out. There are few scarier questions to be asked than, “Where do you want to be in five years?” Finding an answer to that is complicated and elusive. It’s also an unfair question, and one that begins at the wrong starting place.
One of the fundamental questions everyone wants answered is, “When will this all end?” There aren’t any clear pathways forward, nor are there any hard answers about how or when the current pandemic will conclude. There are maybes and possibilities. This week’s article starts a multi-part series about how things might play out. It starts with exploring, in a bit more detail, how we think about the future.
We’re often pretty sure that we understand what values are. Defining them clearly and compellingly, though, is an entirely different matter. Values aren’t about defining the lowest common denominator of what is important. They get at the very heart of who we are, and particularly how we operate, decide and interact. Getting them right is critical; it also takes a great deal of work.
Vision statements—like mission statements—need to be specific, meaningful and clear. They reflect our future aspirations, and are an important test of where we are going and why that is important. Like mission statements, though, vision is often vague, imprecise and overly general. For vision to do something, it has to say something.
Pick a strategic plan. Any strategic plan. Read the mission statement, and ask what it tells you about what makes the organization it belongs to unique. All too often, the answer to that is “not much.” Rather than being defining statements of purpose, mission statements are often vague, generalized and designed to appeal to the lowest common denominator. It doesn’t have to be this way.