Vision is one of those ancient words that have found new life in modern times. It is also one of the most abused and misunderstood concepts in modern organizational life. Yet everyone talks about how important it is. What exactly is vision and why is it so misused?
Why is it that so many organizations seem to be in a drift pattern, with no clear direction, slaves to daily routines, having lost the passion of their roots? To understand what vision is, perhaps we need to first understand what it is not.
Vision is not the same thing as a vision statement. A vision statement is no guarantee that the organization truly has a vision. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not against writing something down. But unless you DO SOMETHING with it, a vision statement is worthless, no matter how clearly defined or eloquently worded.
It’s a very old trap but we humans just can’t seem to learn. We continuously confuse words with reality. We think that “saying it” has some kind of power and can even be substituted for action. It’s almost like the ancient pagan magic with its incantations and curses and the belief that the mere pronouncement of words will–poof–change circumstances. Sorry, but life is just not that way.
There’s this little book in the Bible called James, which many believe to have been written by the brother of Jesus (unless you’re Catholic, in which case it was written by his cousin). Anyway, James was this really smart dude who understood the necessary link between words and action. James had this incredible insight. When you hear it, you’ll think it so obvious you won’t understand why we don’t get it. He wrote:
Just as the body is dead without the spirit, so also faith without works is dead (James 2:26).
In other words, you can have all the vision in the world, but if that vision is not accompanied by action, it’s just words, equal to the magical utterances of a troglodyte.
A vision is not magic. It has no power to change the world, unless it is accompanied with action. A true vision–the kind that can really make a difference–does not occur in a vacuum. It comes about through a rugged, exhausting process of amassing and analyzing information and then acting on that information. Real visionaries are not necromancers who can speak things into existence. They are broad-based strategic thinkers who are willing to act on their vision.
So, contrary to the way it’s often used in mediocre organizations, a vision is not simply a mantra that emanates mystical energy by mere repetition. It will accomplish nothing if all it does is hang on the wall, carved into a granite plaque. It can only accomplish its task when it has become the life-blood and heartbeat of the organization. It will propel the organization toward excellence only when it stands up and takes action. True vision provides a sense of direction that is well-informed and backed by a team of workers willing to put forth great effort to bring it about.
What do you think? Have you been a part of an organization that gives mere lip-service to its vision? What do you suggest to turn one’s vision into reality?
Greg Waddell provides consulting services for churches and organizations. Contact Dr. Waddell today at gregwaddell[at]leadstrategic.com to discuss the needs of your organization.