Strategy : Strategic Visioning

[picture of Helene Mazur]Helene Mazur is the President of Princeton Performance Dynamics.As a business coach and facilitator, Helene helps individuals and organizations to more effectively achieve targeted goals.

Prior to establishing Princeton Performance Dynamics, Helene spent over 20 years in a variety of leadership roles at Merrill Lynch, Bankers Trust Company, Dean Witter Reynolds, and Electronic Data Systems.

Helene has successfully implemented change in a large number of organizations with a range of perspective from positions that have included: strategic planning, product management, sales and marketing, and the management of administrative groups and project teams. She has developed and facilitated training programs, consulted, and been a speaker to numerous organizations and groups across the country.

Contact Helen at Princetown Performance Dynamics.

Imagine That


The process of developing a vivid picture of the future is an important step in creating a future that is better than today. A clear, motivating image can inspire us to reach higher and overcome challenges. Once created, a vision will begin to impact today as a foundation for new decisions.


While all that sounds great, crafting a meaningful vision of the future isn't always that simple! A blank piece of paper can be daunting whether you are an artist, a writer, a programmer, or a CEO. If your natural inclination is to skip 'the vision' and get right down to business, read on. Everyone can be a creative visionary!


Art And Science


It is not a surprise that visual thinking plays an important role in the creative process; what many people don't realize is the role that creative thinking plays in the strategic thinking and planning process.


Henry Mintzberg in "The Rise And Fall Of Strategic Planning" makes a clear distinction between the skills necessary for strategic thinking and the skills needed for planning. He explains that planning involves the left side of the brain with a need for logic, reasoning, linear and rational thinking. Strategic thinking, on the other hand, requires the ability to examine new possibilities involving the right brain.


Strategic thinking entails tasks such as dealing with large chunks of information, and the ability to pull pieces together into a big picture. Planning involves words and numbers and strategic thinking requires patterns and visual images.




In "Strategic Thinking And The New Science," T. Irene Sanders tells us that "strategic thinking has two major components: insight about the present and foresight about the future." Visual thinking can help us link our intuitive sense of events in the world with our intellectual understanding.


Although there are different viewpoints, most current scientific research shows that while no one is totally left-brained or right-brained, most people have a distinct dominance on one side or the other.


In tasks such as the development of a long-range strategy, where thinking needs to come from both sides of the brain, it is important to find ways to draw out both our imagination and our analytic abilities. Visual based techniques can help us link possibility thinking, intuition, and current realities.




A vision can be a mental picture of an "ideal" organization, relationship or life. Studies have shown that we are more likely to reach an objective if we can see it and can imagine the steps to reach it. Visioning is a common strategy in sports. Olympic skaters imagine themselves going through the steps and landing a perfect jump.


Visual thinkers create pictures or models of a problem in their mind, play with the visual, move it around, refine it, and use it to raise more questions. A drawing or model helps push thinking further. Albert Einstein imagined himself traveling through the universe as a "man in a box" on a ray of light. This vision helped him develop the theory of general relativity.


Tools And Techniques


In a strategic planning process, there are four fundamental questions: "Where are you now?" Where are you going?" Where do you want to be?" and "How are you going to get there?"


Visual ways of addressing these types of questions help the mind "to see." Seeing can help identify issues and opportunities, organize information, prioritize, clarify thinking, and set goals on a personal and/or organizational level. Try out one of the following exercises:

  • Envision an article written in the future about you or your company.
  • Record your desired future in a diagram, sketch, model, or in a photographic montage. In "The Artist's Way," Julia Cameron suggests creating collages or journals to help develop ideas.
  • Imagine yourself receiving an award for a major accomplishment. What is the award for? What has been accomplished?

More complex visual diagramming techniques can reveal patterns, interrelationships and interdependencies, stimulate creative thinking and enable new ideas and innovations. When working with groups of people, visual tools can help to foster creative dialogue, create perspective shifts and help to record ideas.


Mind Mapping


Mind Mapping is a powerful technique that can help in developing a strategy, or expand thinking on a subject. The 'Map' uses words, lines, logic, colors, images, and links to draw out associations and stimulate thinking. The technique works as well in large group brainstorming sessions, as it does one-on-one with a coach.


While there are many different "mind mapping" systems, the basic process involves expanding on ideas using key words and branches. The objective is to make a complex or thorny topic easier to understand, explore, or remember.


Create a simple mind map:

  1. Draw a circle in the middle of a blank sheet of paper and write a project, goal, dream or idea in the center of the circle.
  2. Draw lines (spokes or branches) radiating out from the central circle.
  3. Write down thoughts/ideas that relate to the central circle at the end of each spoke and circle them.
  4. From each of the new circles repeat steps B-C, continuing out as far as you feel comfortable.

Next, translate the ideas to an outline form and try to create some action steps based on your thinking.


Scenario Planning/Future Mapping


Scenario planning tools have been around for decades and are useful to help anticipate change, predict the elements of different scenarios and develop strategies to be able to shape each possible future.


Today there are many models that take scenario planning to the next level. Dr. Canton's "Future Mapping" tool makes the distinction between forecasting (getting advance information about the future based on analysis of existing conditions and trends) and foresight (the ability to see what is emerging). The tool creates scenarios based on key change drivers, trends and "forces that can shape the future of an enterprise, market, industry, society or civilization."




Visual tools and techniques are the most effective when they are set in the right framework. One of the keys to good visioning is asking good questions. The combination of questioning and visual techniques can bring out the "creative thinker" in even the most task-oriented person.


Are you focused on the right questions?


Copyright 2002 by Helene Mazur. All rights reserved.



blog comments powered by Disqus