Friday, January 27, 2012

Lessons from Procter & Gamble – Creating The Vision

Do you have 20/20 vision? How clearly can you see? How clearly can you see into the future?

Does your company have 2020 vision? That is to say, does your company have a clear view of what it wants to accomplish by 2020? You may see this as just a clever play on words. However, it is much more than this. Without a clear vision that is known and understood throughout the company, chances are that your company will not maximize its success. It is like trying to operate without your own 20/20 vision. Things just get blurry. Since it is all about sight and that is best from high up, not surprisingly, it is commonly the responsibility of the CEO to articulate and lead activities toward achievement of the vision.

A well-conceived vision consists of two major components: core ideology and envisioned future. Core ideology defines what the company stands for and why it exists. It is made up of core values and core purpose. We recently wrote about core values, both in general and in specifics, for Procter & Gamble. We also wrote about core purpose, “why do we exist”, the second part of the core ideology. These two elements are unchanging and complement the envisioned future. The envisioned future is what we aspire to become, to achieve, to create.

Vision captures both of these elements and does so in terms of defining a future state. A vision is a picture of what success will be at a particular time in the future. It encompasses answers to an array of questions: What does your organization look like? How big is it? For what are you famous? Why does anyone care about what you do? How do people who work there feel about their jobs? A great vision is inspiring. It gets you and everyone in the organization excited to come to work. This is not mere wishful thinking. A vision must also be strategically sound. You have to have a reasonable shot at getting there. Vision provides guidance about what core to preserve and what future to stimulate progress toward. But vision has become one of the most overused and least understood words in the language, conjuring up different images for different people of deeply held values, outstanding achievement, exhilarating goals, motivating forces, or raisons d’etre.

Companies that enjoy enduring success have core values and a core purpose that remain fixed while their business strategies and practices adapt to a changing world. The dynamic of preserving the core while stimulating progress is the reason that companies such as Procter & Gamble, Hewlett-Packard, 3M, Johnson & Johnson, Merck, Sony, Motorola, and Nordstrom became elite institutions, able to renew themselves and achieve superior long-term performance. In Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies, the authors found that these companies have outperformed the general stock market by a factor of 12 since 1925.

The second primary component of the vision framework is envisioned future. At Procter & Gamble in their strategic planning process, this is called the Objective. It is a qualitative statement of what the company targets to accomplish. In some ways Objective is somewhat paradoxical. On the one hand, it conveys concreteness, something visible, vivid, and real. On the other hand, it involves a future time with its dreams, hopes, and aspirations.

Procter & Gamble and other visionary companies use bold mission statements as a powerful way to stimulate progress. These serve as a unifying focal point of effort and act as a catalyst for team spirit. They have a clear finish line, so the organization can know when it has achieved the goal.

supports the envisioned future with an engaging and specific description of what it will be like to achieve the Objective. It translates the vision from words into pictures, of creating an image that people can carry around in their heads. Passion, emotion, and conviction are essential parts of the vivid description. Perhaps the most dramatic statement of a vision was President Kennedy’s announcement that the US would put a man on the moon within ten years. Not only was this a rallying cry but it also guided action and resource allocations. They made it happen!

We have found that many executives struggle with mission statements and vision statements. They overanalyze or underallocate effort to the process. These statements turn out to be an ill-defined mix of values, goals, purposes, philosophies, beliefs, aspirations, strategies and descriptions. They are usually a boring, confusing, stream of words that evoke the response “True, but who cares?” They fail to preserve the core and stimulate progress. A true vision simply provides the context for bringing this dynamic to life.

This may seem like a simple process. It isn’t. As you can see, it combines the analytical with the creative and then necessitates alignment across the organization, if it is going to be successful. We have had experience both at Procter & Gamble and with many other companies in our consulting business. We know the powerful results that can come from the investment of time and energy in creating a sound vision for the company.

How is your foresight? Does your company have 2020 Vision? Do you need help with your 2020 Vision?



John Maver
Maver Management Group
(925) 648-7561
Maver Management
View John Maver's profile on LinkedIn

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