Around the beginning of the 1990s there was a lot of talk about creating a ‘shared vision’. It was the rage in all the executive off-sites. It was the focus of many ‘fire side chats’ between the executives and their managers and then passed along from the managers to their staff. I think the objective was to have everyone have the same ‘vision’ and if everyone had the same vision, then everyone would certainly work toward that vision. I thought a lot about this approach as it had many positive attributes but the ‘stated vision’ seemed to fade over time and few of its attributes and intentions had been sustained into actualization.
Soon, I noticed a continuing difference (gap) between the ‘shared vision’ and the reality of people’s day-to-day experiences within the organization. There was quite a difference. The vision was about a perfect place. The reality of working there day-to-day was quite another description.
This is about the time when I started to think about the concepts of a “living vision”. I remember the first time I had asked a group of Sr. Managers to take down the Mission, Vision and Values statements from their offices and hallways. I then asked them to explore ‘how to really live’ their vision and values that day and tomorrow, and to come up with some simple but concrete actions and behaviors for other people to experience.
I thought that was the key- ‘for other people to experience’.
This is based on the understanding that people are fundamentally ‘experiential’ by our own nature.
The only criteria given was: “To do something that gave others ‘concrete experiences’ where those experiences were congruent with the mission, vision and values of the organization in some absolute way.”
They did it after some discussion and after exploring some ways that could happen. The Sr. Managers seemed to enjoy the possibilities discussed – there was energy behind it.
The Sr. Management Team decided to keep this exercise as a part of their ‘rolling agenda’. I think they did enjoy ‘getting out there’ with this little exercise.
After a few weeks, some new things started to occur. Some of the folks the Sr. Managers interacted with started to act differently and they passed on giving the people they worked with different experiences. Thus, eventually such ‘experiences’ began to evoke new behaviors. Such had an interesting ripple effect.
It was not as smooth as it sounds here. It took a conscious effort and through that conscious effort, some consistency and some congruency, something took hold.
What was interesting here is that their first conscious efforts were focused on themselves and their immediate fellow colleagues . Eventually, and this did take some time, the scope of their focus and strategy emerged into taking a look at the congruency of their vision to operational policies, systems and processes. Again, a ripple effect.
I believe this was the ‘core’ of the thing: “New experiences may and can evoke new perceptions of self and others, new concepts, attitudes and new behaviors.” No doubt this premise is based on, as mentioned previously, the concept that humans are experiential in their learning and adaptation.
Through these efforts the vision and values started to ‘live’ and emerge in day-to-day practices and behaviors.
The notion of a ‘living vision’ is simply that – one is either living it, and thus people are experiencing it, or one is not.
At the same time, because it is ‘living’, a vision can and does evolve as new information, ideas, influencers, patterns and experiences emerge and are internalized and integrated amongst the organization, the people and its internal and external environments.
If you want your vision to live, give people that experience.