In my previous post, I referenced our company vision statement and wrote about how it has been pulling us toward higher objectives. As it’s rather an unusual model, I thought I’d show it and say a little more about how it came to be and how it is used. We are a company with many tools, from simple hand tools, to powerful CNC tools to some very high-tech software tools, but no other tool is as powerful as our Shared Vision.
It developed from a mid-course correction that happened in the late 1980’s, and has been continually evolving ever since. The correction came because I began to recognize that my leadership wasn’t as inclusive as it needed to be to create a great company. I wanted to work in a place in which the best outcomes in service and products emanate naturally. I knew we couldn’t achieve our full potential unless everyone pulled and pushed with the same intensity.
When I put myself in the shoes of my fellow associates, I realized my management methods weren’t going to lead to the future I wanted. Essentially, I came to understand that I needed to release my personal tendency to control because passion and commitment can’t be commanded, but instead can only grow in a more natural and organic way within each individual.
When it comes to what happens in the hearts of people, I had learned the hard way that we can only control some of the context, but none of the content.
With these hard-won realizations, I brought the company together and thanked them for doing their best to help me realize my visions over the previous years, and then went on to express my interest in starting a new era in which I could join them in pursuit of our collective vision. In order to do that, though, we’d have to find a way to agree about what it was, and express it in a way that we could all work toward its fulfillment.
It started with pieces of paper pinned up to big bulletin board, each one with a statement about principles, values or actions each person thought we should be working toward or doing. We then divided them up in categories, worked on the wording and then worked to find consensus about what they meant and what we could do to make them a part of our efforts.
It took a long, long time! We had to find time to meet. We had to learn how to communicate and listen as we never had in the past. We had to reach agreement on important principles, though we were then and now anything but a monoculture of people and attitudes. The Shared Vision existed in bulletin board form for several years, with very much the organization you see below, but for quite some time it was also separated into several groups by color, with green being the statements that had consensus, yellow the ones we were currently working on, and red being the outliers.
Here’s a slightly out-of-date edition. You can click on it to see more detail.
As you can see, what we eventually came up with is anything but a linear document. We came to feel that our principles and company values should be the drivers of our actions. We organized the statements and the actions to show us graphically that there is consistency between what we do and what we believe.
Like any good vision statement, this one is a bugger. It mostly reminds us that there is still are still gaps; we’re still falling short on this and that, and there’s more work to do. Because of that immutable fact, most of the editing in the past ten years has been in the action area, not the principle/value core of the document.
Of course, a good Shared Vision does not automatically make us a great company, but it does make us a better company. I also think it makes me a better leader. I can point to our values, not my own, when pressing for a new initiative. It’s also empowering because our collective vision is bigger than mine was.
The other obvious benefit is that what it does for me, it also does for everyone else in the company. If you can reference the Shared Vision with your idea (or complaint), you’ve got our attention. We always have more work to do, one more thing to improve or change or do. Which is why I always say…onward!