Often people approach me about working with their organziations to solve a particular set of problems they have: product delivery is too slow, the product has quality issues, there’s a lack of alignment between departments or branches, they complain about a lack of innovation, or they need a new team that builds a new and better product to replace the mediocre ones they already have out there.

To better understand the context I usually ask them about their organization’s vision and values. Very often there’s no clear vision statement, and the answer goes along the lines of “become profitable”, “make money for the investors”, “become #1 in our target market” or simply prepare an exit. And All these statements may appear to be perfectly valid goals, to top brass who probably have bonuses attached to reaching those goals, but is not a vision to inspire anyone else in the organization. When I dig deeper, I often find that employee turnover is pretty high, and finding talent is becoming increasingly difficult. I don’t think that’s a coincidence, I see that as a direct consequence of the lack of vision: A clear and shared vision is a vital ingredient for sustainable success, because it allows a people to align towards a common goal, a brighter future they all want to be part of creating. A strong vision decouples success from the abilities of “managers” to “motivate”, and enables everyone to make smarter decisions and point out conflicts.

Coming up with a vision for a new organization is rather easy, there’s only a few people involved, so I usually have two or three facilitated sessions in the space of 1–2 weeks. We create many ideas, and then dig deep into what is really important to each of the participants, we consolidate, look for what is still missing, and iterate. We stop when we have boiled it down to 4–5 simple aspects and everybody feels they having a shared understanding that this is the minimal set that describes their intentions. Over time, somebody will inevitably create a catchy vision statement out of these, they usually don’t need me for that, I merely guide the process to nail down the important aspects. Only when the vision is good enough to go, we start working on the organizational values.

On a larger scale, I helped organizations refine their vision over time, in a much less structured process, but I always thought there has to be a simple and elegant way to go about this.

Today, in a conversation with Jeanette Mooney we discovered that since for an existing organziation the vision has to be in line with the shared values of the group, we need to first discover the shared values and then let the values guide the process of finding the vision. Inviting people to contribute their personal values to the organziation in a values workshop is a major step towards co-creation of the vision, as it creates a safer space for creative collaboration. I think this insight will allow me to develop a nifty workshop format for co-creation of an organization’s vision so I will have it ready the next time somebody wants me to help them with that.