Most business owners understand the idea of developing a business plan and know how to create objectives and goals. But many become challenged when asked about their vision for where they want to be in 5, 10 or 15 years, says Ricci M. Victorio, CSP, managing partner at Mosaic Family Business Center.
“Many business owners say they don’t know what they are doing in the next 30 days, much less in 15 years,” says Victorio. “But failing to have a strategic vision will be detrimental to potential growth and long-term success.”
Smart Business spoke with Victorio about how creating a deliberate strategic vision can help move your business into the future and help you achieve anything you can imagine.
Where does a business begin to create a strategic vision?
With the help of a facilitator, imagine the year is 2022; then look back to 2012 and ask yourself, ‘What have we achieved in last 10 years that we are really proud of?’ Instead of asking yourself where you want to be, hypothetically ask yourself, ‘Where have I been?’ Do this exercise with no boundaries and no fear of failure. If you could have achieved anything in these last 10 years, what would it be? For example, if someone has a goal of being retired, then he or she has to think about succession. Who will have taken your place? If you don’t know, you have a strategic issue.
As you think back from 2022, you step into strategic visioning. When you look at what your future needs are going to be, rather than just dealing with whatever happens, you can ask what you need to do now to be better positioned for where you want to be. This kind of behavior is called ‘being at cause.’
‘Being at effect’ is based in reactive behavior and causes anxiety. You will spend more money solving problems, paying the highest price to get it done quickly. Also, hasty decisions may not be the best ones for the long term. Having a strategic vision allows you to make deliberate changes on your own timetable because you are thinking ahead.
Having a strategic vision also allows for creative, innovative problem solving. You can take the time to determine whether an adjustment works. And because you are doing it incrementally, you are ahead of everyone else who will be scrambling to make changes at the last minute.
How does creating a strategic vision allow a business to work more methodically?
For example, if you want to be retired in 10 years, ask yourself what will be required in the next 10 years to bring your successor through the experiential and training process so he or she will be ready when needed. Or if your shareholders want to expand, determine what you have to do to be positioned to build your assets so you will have the available resources when you need them. Your vision for tomorrow should fuel your action today.
Buy-in from your team is essential. Boil it down to a concept. This will create a strong emotional connection that will encourage commitment from your entire organization. With a common vision, all decisions become based upon keeping everyone in alignment with where you are going. Be advised that a strategic plan should be reviewed every year or two, because change is inevitable.
How does the process work?
Initially, all ideas should be welcome without judgment. The only rule during brainstorming sessions is that nothing is impossible. When you give people permission to create without being required to know how they are going to get there, it’s very freeing. People often get stuck in the question of ‘how’ something will be accomplished. But in the visioning exercise, the focus should be on the ‘what we want to be’ and ‘where we want to go,’ and not about worrying or negotiating how we will get there.
After you’ve gone through the predictable ideas, begin considering what else you can do — let go and have fun. You’ll find that people start throwing out ideas that are ‘outside the box’ and potentially brilliant. This is where having a facilitator who is objective, understands the creative process and doesn’t have a vested interest in the decisions that are made is significantly important.
How do you communicate the strategic vision to your employees and get buy-in?
Start by transforming the strategic vision into a plan with action implementation steps. Communicate your overarching vision and provide a way for employees to participate in implementing the vision into actionable steps. Your vision cannot become a reality without their creative participation.
Next, enroll employees into committees to work on fulfilling the three or four major objectives in your plan. They will develop the tactical steps that will become part of your annual business planning. This vision gives you the motivator — the ‘why’ — for the ‘what,’ and then employees are tasked with figuring out ‘how’ to get there.
Buy-in requires that every employee has a stake in the outcome and participates in creating the programs that will get you to the next goal post. Conversely, if ownership believes that the success of the company is built on the genius of top management, change will be difficult. Recognizing that your organization is stronger and more innovative and successful when everyone is working together as a team, rather than when taking orders from the top, will propel you toward the achievement of your dream.
Ricci M. Victorio, CSP, is managing partner at Mosaic Family Business Center. Reach her at (415) 788-1952.