6 C’s of a Visionary Organization

A successful visionary organization realizes that change cannot occur unless it has a roadmap to reach its destination.

ARTICLE | Feb 13, 2017
By Eliakim Thorpe
Graphic: Thinkstock.com

By Eliakim Thorpe

A manager has been working for an organization for more than 10 years. It has experienced tremendous growth during that time, and the manager decided to schedule a meeting to discuss the organization’s current state and how it can remain relevant and sustainable in an ever-changing economy.

What began as a meeting to discuss the past successes and current state of the organization turned into a dialogue on an organization not simply driven by revenue and expense margins but one governed by an organizational vision that becomes the living and breathing force behind its every action.

Vision is the tension between what was, what is, and what will be. It reaffirms an organization’s reason for existence, identifies who it serves, and creates services to solve community problems. A visionary organization lives in two-worlds—one of purpose and one of profit. This type of organization celebrates its past, embraces its present, and is fueled by its future. It is an organization that is not shackled to the past or its past traditions

A sustainable, long-standing organization has a well-developed vision that is ahead of its time, along with a powerful plan for change to remain competitive in a fluid and changing climate.

Every visionary organization realizes that radical change cannot occur unless it has a roadmap to successfully reach its destination. To become visionary, six elements are needed to create a powerful vision or blueprint for change:

1. Clear. A powerful vision is clear. It creates a mental picture in the minds of employees of what it would be like to achieve it. A clearly articulated vision becomes the masterpiece—the organization is the painter and the world its canvas. A clear vision uses direct, transparent, straightforward language, and meaningful visuals to convey a sense of the desired future state that is easy for the staff to understand and internalize.

2. Compelling. It is important that the organization identifies and articulates a compelling story to ignite change. The story must be able to capture the heart, mind, and soul of its employees. It should create a sense of urgency based upon the changing marketplace and shifting societal winds, not urgency simply based on financial factors.

It is a transparent view of a picture of what would happen if the organization doesn’t change. The story should be so compelling that it creates a type of constructive tension so employees want to initiate a profound change for growth. The story becomes the catalyst for change. In its essence, a compelling story inspires the whole organization.

3. Concrete. A concrete vision is defined where an organization is skilled in giving form to a formless and shapeless future reality. A concrete vision awakens the senses of every employee to produce a tangible and substantial reality that is achievable.

It is analogous to being a potter shaping clay, molding it, and transforming it into something tangible that the organization can understand. In the end, a concrete vision uses descriptive, present-tense language and visuals to convey a believable future and desired end state of the organization.

4. Communicated. A well-developed vision may begin in the mind of the organizational leader as an abstract idea and turns into a powerfully communicated vision throughout so that employees understand and can articulate where they are going.

To effectively communicate a vision requires an established communication infrastructure that has verbal, written, visual, behavioral, and system components that convey and manage the barriers and progress of the vision.

Leadership must regularly communicate and reinforce the vision so that momentum is sustained while undergoing the organizational change. Visionary organizations don’t simply see the vision, they become the vision.

5. Consented. Every vision articulated must have the ability to mobilize the workforce to accept the idea of the leader. Consensus is in summary taking the idea of one and making it the idea of many. It is the ability to use persuasive language to craft a vision that is inclusive, open, honest, transparent, and mobilizes the workforce to accept the needed organizational changes to remain relevant.

Consensus creates a shared responsibility beginning with the leader that is embraced by all levels of the organization. The most powerful visions happen when an entire group or organization is mobilized, unified, linked, and of one mind to ensure that its goals are reached.

6. Committed. For a vision to become a reality, people throughout the organization must be willing to voluntarily invest their time, talent, and resources. Leadership must not only cast the vision, carry the vision, and support the vision, but the staff must also catch the vision to propel the organization forward in a profound way.

An organization must be more than economically sensitive to the changing landscape. Organizations must be consciously aware of the ripple effects that vision creates. When they begin the transformation process, they must honestly appraise their current and present state.

Does the current state of the organization align with its future goals? Enterprises must understand the reasoning for why it’s necessary to undertake radical change, which is more than prioritizing organizational structures, process, services, and profit. It must include and clearly state the imperative of people and residents as being at the center of any visionary activities.

Throughout history, the catalyst for change has begun with individuals who foresaw the benefit of developing a visionary organization. The development of such an organization resulted in inspired employees, service innovation, higher revenue margins, stronger organizational culture, and strong organizational outcomes.

Eliakim Thorpe is a speaker and an author on organizational transformation, Nazareth, Michigan (www.EliakimThorpeSpeaks.com). He is the creator of the process called T.H.R.I.V.I.N.G. Organization: A New Philosophy to Transform Organizations.

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