Has your company’s vision statement lost its steam? Is it gathering dust? Do employees even know you have a vision statement?
A good vision statement helps employees understand why the company is in business and focus attention on the desired future. There are over 50 studies that show the positive impact of a vision statement on company, business unit and individual employee performance as well as employee attitudes.
For example, a study by University of Maryland Professors J. Robert Baum and Edwin Locke found that companies with vision statements that were communicated to employees had higher revenue growth over a 6-year period than those without vision statements. Other studies have found that business units with a leader who communicates a vision have higher productivity and lower project costs than units with leader who did not communicate a vision.
Upgrading your vision statement doesn’t mean that you have to change the idea behind your vision, but you can change the wording to fine tune it. Zenoss helps companies manage their large scale IT systems, and its original vision statement was Changing the game in systems management. The original concept behind its vision remains constant but was changed a few years ago. Changing the game was reworded as Transforming, and system management became IT Operations to reflect terms used by its customers, who are information technology professionals. Zenoss’ new vision statement is Transforming IT Operations.
Tip 1: Describe Your Impact
Avoid the generic vision statement of “to be the best in our industry.” Instead, find a way to truly inspire employees by describing the impact that you want to have. Sporting goods maker Giro’s vision is described below:
The best riders in the world will be using our products in world-class competition. Winners of the Tour de France, the World Championships and the Olympic Gold Medal will win while wearing Giro helmets. We will receive unsolicited phone calls and letters from customers who say,“Thank you for being in business; one of your helmets saved my life.” Our employees will feel that this is the best place they’ve ever worked. When you ask people to name the top company in the cycling business, the vast majority will say, “Giro.”
REI’s vision statement goes beyond simply stating its mission of selling outdoor gear:
We inspire, educate and outfit for a lifetime of outdoor adventure and stewardship.
Tip 2: Make Employees Part of Your Vision
Build employees’ confidence by incorporating into your vision statement of how the company will help employees grow and develop.
A woodworking company expanded a mundane vision of “to be a leader in the industry” by explaining how employees would benefit from the company’s continued industry leadership:
To continue to be a leader in the woodworking industry using creative and innovative ideas. To provide a high-quality product at a fair price backed with dependable service. To create an atmosphere in which all employees can develop to their greatest potential and where willingness to accept change will ensure continuous improvement.
Avoid using us-versus-them terms. Instead, use “we” to refer to everyone in the company—management and employees—to draw employees in.
We are achievers – intelligent and efficient – in the way we spend our business resources of time, talent, and dollars, to bring about a successful, planned and expected business result or profitability…
Tip 3: Make It Unique
If your company’s name is omitted from your vision statement, it should still be obvious that it refers to your company and not your competitor. Refer to specific markets that you serve:
To be the company that best understands and satisfies the product, service and self-fulfillment needs of women – globally. (Avon)
Or, reference your strategy for achieving the vision:
To provide access to the world’s information in one click. (Google)
Saving people money so they can live better. (Walmart)
Technology services company ACF Solutions modified its vision statement to reflect an additional market—higher education–that its founders wanted to serve:
To be a recognized leader and trusted advisor to the world’s most impactful non-profit and higher education organizations.
The higher education market now represents about half of ACF Solutions’ revenues.
When you upgrade your vision statement by making it unique, impactful and relevant to your employees, your company will outperform the competition!
Shelley A. Kirkpatrick is the co-founder and CEO of Visiontelligence LLC (www.visiontelligence.com) where she helps leaders build better vision statements. A former professor at Carnegie Mellon University and The American University, her Ph.D. is in organizational behavior from the Smith School of Business, University of Maryland at College Park.