Ancient text informs us that "without vision the people perish;" it is during challenging times like these that vision is tested and often lost.
My mentor for twenty years and author of "Awakening the Giant," the late Jim Russell, used to say that vision is the definition of a long-term goal. No wonder then, that without it businesses lose their bearings and find themselves in a morass of problems that threaten their existence. By nature, entities must have purpose for being - a long term goal, if you will - in order to provide impetus for progress. When lost by reason of economic upheaval or other types of duress, it must be restored. This process, the restoration of vision, involves at least the following four points.
Perhaps most important is to re-establish first cause. In other words, to go back to the beginning and revisit the purpose for which the company was established to begin with. Whether it was to be your own boss, create jobs, or save the environment - whatever the reason, chances are it is still valid and, once reinstated, will enable the enterprise to move forward.
I should caution here that in order for a vision to advance anything, it must have sufficient power. Being your own boss, for example, gets old in time, especially when recession and financial pressure makes life uncomfortable. A vision has to be larger than that, big enough and powerful enough to drive the company towards it. Jim Collins, of Good to Great fame, refers to it as a "big, hairy, audacious goal" - or a "BHAG." It has to be big, it has to be scary, and it must be bold enough to qualify. If it is not, then a new one is in order.
The second step is for management to make a firm commitment to the fulfillment of the vision. This pledge cannot be unlike that made by our founding fathers, who dedicated their lives and sacred honor to the realization their long-term goal - a free and open society. In other words, the vision must be worthy of our dedication to it.
What is amazing about America today is the fact that fewer and fewer citizens posses a working knowledge of the Constitution, and are, as a result, suffering the loss of freedoms guaranteed by that document. This is largely because it is no longer taught in our schools and universities. The lesson is this: vision must be communicated. It is not enough to have one. It is not enough for the owner(s) to be committed to it. It has to be communicated to every level of the organization. This is the third point along the way of restoring vision.
Finally, vision must be policed. By this is meant the patrolling of the BHAG. One does not have to look far to see companies and organizations that once had brilliant vision statements and noble causes now a far cry from their original purpose. And this is an ever-present threat for those brave enough to establish and pursue something larger than themselves. For this reason the goal must be carefully watched and protected.
Vision is a powerful thing; it has driven men and nations to achieve both the extraordinary and the atrocious. It relatively easy to obtain but difficult to maintain. Once lost, it is very hard to get back. There is hope, however, for those whose dreams have been shattered, whose vision obscured, and whose goals hindered. They can be restored. You can get them back. Re-establishing your original purpose, committing yourself to it, communicating and policing it, are actions you can take to do just that.