The previous chapter
on leadership made a strong case for the link between vision and
extraordinary human achievement. Reaching our full potential requires
goals that challenge us to exceed that potential. Unfortunately,
in this most instrumental of ages,daydreaming is unfashionable.
The education of the industrial era teaches us to keep our attention
on the task at hand; the drive for upward mobility focusses our
creativity on immediate problem-solving and practical matters of
management. The age of deconstruction awards more points to critiques
than to castles in the air.
Given these barriers,
little wonder that people are uncomfortable with the verbs "vision,"
"fantasize," "dream." If not for the cases cited in recent management
literature which underscore the utility of vision for motivating
exemplary performance, it would be difficult to convince professionals
to engage in visioning. Yet it is something humans do naturally,
that in fact we must be trained not to do. Reinstating visioning
as a powerful creative tool is simply re-balancing our internal
environment: giving equal pride of place to intuition and fantasy
next to logic and calculation. Visioning requires them all.
Visioning is an
exercise in structured idealism. It means wrenching our "common
sense"-ibilities away from the practical to indulge in daydreaming
and wishlisting. It not only assumes that people can create the
future, but also that a sufficiently inspiring vision of a preferred
future motivates people to action. Most simply, it is an iterative
brainstorming process, relying heavily on imagination, ideals, and
To begin, we state a
handful of general characteristics for a preferred future: peace
on earth, environmental stewardship, racial equality. These are
too general to be useful building blocks; they must be refined into
more precise statements.
Next, we perform an idealistic
incasting on the staple components of social reality: in our preferred
future, what form will nation-states take? government? what will
community social structures be like? how will people be educated?
how will work be structured? how will goods be produced, distributed,
and consumed? The next step moves further into the realm of fantasy,
by asking what the components of an individual's everyday reality
look like: describe a typical day in this preferred future -- begin
with waking up and getting out of bed, being sure to describe the
bed and the bedding.
This exercise has two
primary goals: one, to create a richly descriptive image of a preferred
future; and two, to get beyond the imaginative constraints of a
purely practical, "yes, but..." mindset. Many people find it difficult
to let go of the problem-identifying and problem-solving perspectives
that work ingrains in all of us. Often the best bridge to the ideal
is a string of complaints: most people know what it is about the
present they do NOT like. Consequently, the psychologically natural
opening exercise for visioning is a problem-listing or "catharsis"
stage, in which we list what we absolutely reject for our preferred
The statement of positive
components can begin with restating the negatives as their opposites:
if cultural intolerance is the hallmark of a negative future, the
delight in cultural diversity may be a major component for our preferred
future. Another way to shift to the positive is to identify our
greatest recent successes, either individually or organizationally.
This has the added benefit of reinforcing the belief that we can
As Table 4 illustrates,
individuals and groups may express their visions in many modes.
A vision may be expressed as simply as a sentence: Henry V's, "No
King of England unless King of France," or Kennedy's, "Within the
next decade, the United States will land a man on the moon." These
pocket visions, or vision icons, serve as snapshot reminders
of the living reality of the long-term goal, keeping priorities
clear and motivation high.
To be the standard for public service in America.3
what we want to achieve
|Make Western nations
acknowledge Japan as an equal.
Social and economic development of the State of Oregon.
Quality local government.
facilitated process, delegated drafting
|who we are, why
we work, our values
policy, superior public service, courteous public contact, ...and
sound management (Pinellas Co.)
| what we will do,
when, how, and
|White papers, policies,
Oregon Shines (state vision/plan);
|group process and
1. The rallying
cry for the Meiji era: Rich country, strong army! This expressed
a vision of Japan's future in which they equalled the West in economic
and military strength.
2. Oregon's state vision, which resulted from the Oregon 2020 project,
and has resulted in the Oregon Benchmarks commission, as well as
numerous participatory community visioning and planning projects.
3. Pinellas County, Florida: This vision statement and vision resulted
as part of their efforts to institute total quality management throughout
their county government; it has resulted in superb teamwork, performance,
worker morale, and taxpayer savings.
Ideally, the vision
scenario -- the scenario of a preferred future -- offers a rich
inventory of the vision's identifying characteristics. We might
use Fernand Braudel's approach to history as the exemplar: from
daily manners, the niceties of table settings and other quotidian
details, to the monumental, geologic differences that make that
past scenario real for the participant in the present. Corporations,
agencies, and organizations rarely have the luxury of investing
the time necessary to elaborate a vision in great detail. Most examples
of such extreme elaboration emerge from political utopianists --
although by far the best present-day example, and by far the most
exhaustively discussed, augmented, and media-diverse vision of a
preferred future is that of "Star Trek." The details of this vision
are designed, deliberated, disputed, and delighted in by thousands
of people all over the world daily via Internet, not to mention
the video series, movies, animated cartoons, cartoon books, novels,
short stories, technical manuals, and dictionaries of hypothetical
alien languages. Every community should aspire to such richness
of detail for its vision.
"Oregon Shines" is Oregon's
capsule phrase for its state vision. Oregon's vision serves as the
hub about which its state strategic planning process turns. The
vision begins by affirming that Oregon cherishes its traditions,
human resources, and environmental riches, and pledges to preserve
and enhance these state treasures. From there, it elaborates:
Well-located industrial land would be available and competitively
priced...Power would be plentiful and affordable. Water would be
clean and abundant. The work force would be well-educated and productive.
Our communities would boast excellent, affordable housing, efficient
services, good schools and minimal congestion. Our buildings, bridges
and roads would be well maintained. Our communities, streets and
highways would be uncongested. Both east and west of the Cascades,
our natural environment would remain unspoiled and accessible, offering
year-round outdoor recreation.8
By itself, this is admirable,
but something of a mom-and-apple-pie vision, akin to envisioning
peace on earth. The trick is filling in the details to define what
exactly they mean by "a well-educated work force" and "good schools."
The vision expands to offer those day-to-day details:
At the Portland
International Airport, one would hear visitors and Oregonians
conversing in international languages... [This] would result
from investments begun in the late 1980s -- ...increased
attention to basic skills, problem solving, and foreign
languages in our grade schools...Quality would be the hallmark
in all phases of Oregon life.9
As the details of day-to-day
life are added to the vision, they are carefully interwoven: in
describing economic development which takes advantage of new industries
and innovations and growing cultural diversity, the vision also
discusses related vocational programs, retraining for older workers,
and a new curriculum emphasis on cross-cultural sensitivity and
foreign language training.
For each element of the
vision, Oregon has stated a clear and measurable goal, with
attendant strategies to reach that goal. These measurable goals,
the Oregon Benchmarks, serve not only as the specific details of
the vision, illuminating what the ideals mean in very concrete terms,
but also as landmarks for planning, centering long-range strategies.
In the mission
statement, the community committed to the vision articulates who
they are and explains the source of their commitment to the vision:
why is it a worthwhile act of creation for this particular group
of people? How does it complement their definition of self? The
Pinellas County Government mission statement reads in full:
Government is committed to progressive public policy, superior
public service, courteous public contact, judicious exercise
of authority and sound management of public resources, to
meet the needs and concerns of our citizens today and tomorrow.10
In order to excel within
the framework of this self-definition, the Pinellas County Government
declares, "We are working to be the standard for public service
in America." This single sentence is their vision: it is the organizational
best they wish to achieve, given the mission they have defined for
They elaborate the vision-mission
link by articulating three criteria by which to judge strategies
to achieve the vision:
this vision, we place the highest importance on:
The Quality of our Service;
Having our Customers Think Highly of us;
A sense of Commitment and Pride among us.11
Since July, 1991, this
mission statement and vision have created an organizational culture
within Pinellas County Government that is reflected in the enthusiasm,
creativity, and energy of its employees. The Court Administrator
of the Sixth Circuit Court was admiring the fine woodworking county
construction staff were completing as part of renovating the courthouse.
He asked the county employee why the work had not gone to an outside
contractor. The employee told him that the county crew had bid against
outside contractors, come in with a lower price, shorter time estimate,
and higher technical specifications; he finished by adding, "we
are, after all, all working to set the standard for public service
With the vision and mission
statement articulated, the plan then organizes the means
the community has chosen to achieve the vision. Ideally, these are
means that the community judges possible, productive, and appropriate
in ethical or cultural terms. It also acts as the bridge between
the practical present and the idealized future of the vision: it
describes the timeline of achievements necessary to create the changes
that build the vision. Planning achievement completes visioning,
structures the revolution, calls the community to action, and reinforces
the belief that what people imagine they can create -- so we should
teach ourselves to imagine with skill, with care, with critical
foresight, and with respect for diversity.