Does every CEO have a clear vision of where they are trying to take their company? Do you?
Almost every book published on the subject of strategic planning emphasizes the importance of a long range vision, a clear picture of how the business will be different in 5 or 10 years. Self-help entrepreneurial books include the same emphasis. Why, then, do so many business owners struggle with this concept? When asked, “How big do you want this business to become?” why do so many answer, “I don’t know”?
Because it’s the truth. Sometimes you don’t know. You may be so focused on surviving the current year that you can’t allow yourself the luxury of looking ahead to better times. Or, you simply don’t know where you want to take the company ultimately. That doesn’t mean you’re inept. This “vision thing” just is not a priority for you at this time.
The crucial question is whether your business suffers for lack of your vision.
I think it does. It doesn’t necessarily doom the business but, if you don’t know where you’re going, you really won’t know when you’ve arrived. If you don’t know your destination, how will you make the strategic decisions at each fork in the road? And why should your employees commit to an enterprise with an unarticulated future?
Stephen R. Covey said it well a number of years ago (The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People). All things are created twice: first mental, then physical. If you want to create a “happy ending” for your business, you need to have a mental picture of where you’re trying to take it. Covey again: If the ladder you’re climbing is leaning against the wrong wall, what have you accomplished when you get to the top?
Here’s the compromise that makes sense to me. The vision does not have to be crystal clear. But the CEO needs to at least establish the compass heading. Jack Welch (Winning) captured this idea when he explained that, as CEO, “you pick a general direction, and implement like hell”.