Strategy : Vision and Meaning: A Foundation for Excellence
"The Center for Organizational and Personal Excellence is a consortium of leadership, change management, training and personal development experienced professionals from the service (including call center), higher education, healthcare, hospitality, pharmaceutical, manufacturing and government sectors. Since 1988, we have been collaborating in the design, development and delivery of original "leading edge" training materials, organizational effectiveness resources and interventions for individuals, teams and organizations. Since 1998, we have been providing on-line electronic distribution of reproducible training materials via our website".
"Vision Without Action...Is Just a Dream.
Action Without Vision...Just Passes the Time.
But, Vision and Action...Can Change the World."
Vision and Meaning
Vision, a compelling view of a future yet to be, creates meaning and purpose which catapults both individuals and organizations to high levels of achievement. We create meaning in our lives by pursuing our future visions, and we refine our visions based on the meaning we are discovering through our experience. In examining Joel Barker's quote above, in regard to the power of vision, it can be realized that within organizations, vision can be utilized to empower individuals to "take action" to realize high levels of contribution and achievement. With this in mind, let's examine the relationship between corporate vision, individual purpose, and meaning.
The ongoing task of executive organizational leadership is to articulate and nurture a shared vision that engages and empowers individuals in order to bring out the best in people. This does not mean that vision creation is the sole responsibility of the CEO or even a small group of senior managers. Many executives mistakenly think they must come up with a vision that others will follow. However, the opposite is true. In fact, successful companies have found that the broader the participation in creating a vision, the greater the commitment people will have to it. A simple adage to remember this concept is: people will support that which they help to create.
Vision and growth
A compelling vision projects an image of how the organization intends to grow and serve its customers through individual, team, and organizational excellence. It's the most inspiring future you can imagine. Because of this, you can never truly achieve your vision. You work toward it. Your vision communicates to others who you are and who you want to become & not what you have achieved.
The cornerstone of a corporate vision is a clear image of how you will satisfy some important customer need. It is crucial that this image be created from what customers perceive to satisfy their needs not what you think will satisfy them. This requires individuals and organizations to interact extensively with their customers in order to perceive the world from the customers perspective. The key communication skill to demonstrate during these interactions is listening. The feedback received from this customer dialogue will contribute greatly to the organizations ability to provide excellent quality customer service.
In his best-selling business book, In Search of Excellence, Tom Peter's states that "there is no such thing as excellent organizations, only those that believe in continuous improvement." At The Center for Organizational and Personal Excellence, we like to extend this concept to the individual level by saying that "there is no such thing as a professional (or excellent individual), only those who believe in continuous improvement. In light of this organizational and individual focus, the pursuit of excellence, in any form can be viewed as an ambitious and often challenging undertaking. It implies the ability to perform at a consistently high level, which in turn depends on the mastery of the fundamentals in whatever you are doing. There is no end point in the pursuit of excellence and the "target" is often moving. This underscores the importance and value of continuous improvement in people, processes and the organization.
Three Interrelated Aspects of Excellence:
Organizational excellence is the most challenging of the three aspects of excellence because of the consistent level of commitment, cooperation, and alignment required of so many people. A shared vision provides the focus that is required to "make it happen". Without vision, (both in a literal and figurative sense), individuals and organizations do not have the ability to focus on what's important. No Vision--No Focus! As an organization grows, it is inevitable that members must often work in isolation of one another. A rapidly changing business environment also means individuals must often deal with new situations without the opportunity to consult others. Without a strong commitment to a shared vision, there is little hope of sustaining an "organizational consciousness" which can powerfully align individuals to contribute to the organization---very much like master musicians perform their talents within an orchestra, thereby creating a symphony of music.
Team excellence is an absolute prerequisite to organizational excellence, since most work is accomplished by teams. Each team needs to have its own vision that reflects its particular mission and its unique character. Of course, it's important that the team vision also support the organizational vision and aligns with other related teams. Understanding the value and importance of both cooperation and interdependent work relationships should be the goal within teams and between teams throughout the organization. One challenging aspect of teams and teamwork is the establishment and implementation of a "team-based problem identification and problem solving methodology" as the norm within teams and the organization.
Individual Excellence in support of team and organizational goals should be nurtured, recognized and rewarded. At the same time, the pursuit of individual excellence without regard for its impact on team performance and other parts of the system should be discouraged. This is one of the tradeoffs we make when we join an organization. We give up some of our freedom to do exactly what we wish, and we agree to cooperate with others in the pursuit of shared goals. This does not rule out the pursuit of individual excellence and it does mean we must define individual excellence in the context of team and organizational performance.
Most people want to excel as individuals and as members of a team. When desired outcomes are clearly defined under the umbrella of an organizational vision, it's possible to achieve a synergistic effect from the pursuit of all three aspects of excellence. It will not happen automatically, however. It's easy to lose sight of the larger picture when you're engaged in something that is deeply satisfying or exciting to you personally.
The really good news is that people want to be part of something significant--something larger than life. They want to do important work and contribute and be appreciated. They want to grow, develop and excel. They want to experience new things. They want to relate to other people whom they trust and respect. And perhaps most of all, they want to make a difference. In short, they want to create meaning in their own lives, and joining others in the pursuit of a shared vision is one way they can do it.
Since the beginning of recorded history, people have sought to understand the world around them and to figure out what life itself is all about and what it all means. We believe every person has a hunger for meaning and a need to know. In the early childhood years our need to know takes the form of an insatiable curiosity about how things work. We need to understand how things work in order to gain some degree of control over our immediate experience. The more we learn about how things work, the more we want to understand why things work the way they do. Ultimately, we come face to face with the deeper questions about existence itself. Who am I? Why am I here? What skills, abilities and aptitudes do I possess? How can I make a difference, both personally and professionally?
A few people discover or develop a sense of purpose or vision early in their lives. They know who they are and what they want to become at a deep level and they organize their lives around that purpose. In contrast, most people go through life wishing they had the passion and the energy evidenced by people with a purpose.
Purpose and Meaning
We believe strongly that we can all discover a purpose that provides meaning and direction for our lives. It involves a careful examination of our interests, needs, values, and skills and an honest look at ourselves and at what energizes us and what drains us of energy. Finally, it entails listening to our innermost intuition, desires, hopes and fears. This self-examination requires a willingness to objectively reassess our self imposed limitations, as well as those real and imagined barriers which may impede our pathway to success.
A compelling organizational vision often attracts people to its pursuit because it's challenging and it's important. It touches the hunger for meaning that resides in all of us. It energizes and motivates those who choose it at a deep level. It serves as a guide and pathway for decisions and actions in the face of an unknowable future. It also provides the emotional inspiration that keeps people engaged in their pursuits, even when the going gets tough, as it inevitably does in significant undertakings.
© 1998 The Center for Organizational and Personal Excellence
email: Dr. Daniel Duffy, Executive Director ( I received my doctoral degree from Rowan University in May 2004) on firstname.lastname@example.org