Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Communicating Vision

Before we look at communication let me ask the question, have you got a vision? Is it a destination that you can actually reach or have you actually got a mission statement which is your organisations reason for existence?

Assuming you have a vision there is an important process to go through before you start to communicate it. This process could potentially save you both time and increase the effectiveness of your communication immeasureably - find out if your vision makes sense!

How do you ensure your vision make sense?
Doesn't it already make sense? Remember it makes complete sense to you, you being the person or the team that has carried, crafted and lived it for days, weeks maybe even years.
But do you really want people who hear this vision for the first time to have to ask questions like "when you say X what do you mean?"

Hand your vision statement over to some people who have not been part of the process, these people should meet the following criteria - be good with words, include men and women, cover a range of ages and people types i.e. not just similar people to the leader(s). Give over the documentation you have produced so far and ask them simply "does this make sense, do you have any questions?" then sit back and look to take on board this important feedback.

Concise or long winded?
Your vision can be just two or three words (famously Canon photocopiers was "kill Xerox") or it could cover many specific areas with several goals. However, your vision needs to be memorable and if it is a set of goals using an overarching title or vehicle for your vision will help people to remember it. A good example of a wide ranging vision being encompassed in a memorable way is Kings Arms Church, Bedford who have used the numbers 1 to 5 to connect their goals to their 5 year vision.

How do you communicate?
Simple answer - by every means possible until everyone knows the vision or you have achieved it! In communicating vision there are two key aspects to consider:
1. What are the questions you need to answer?
2. Consider the methods you need to use to really communicate with people

The questions - there are three main questions people will have - Why, How, What

Why have you\we gone for this vision? If the vision is a natural extension of the past or normal for your type of organisation this why question may just cover issues around the scope of the vision. Questions that ask why so high\low\long\short\small\big etc.
If it is a major departure from where you are at now it will be necessary to demonstrate where the faith is in this new vision.

How will we get there? Again the smaller and simpler the vision the less of these questions will come.
Going for a grand vision way beyond where you are now requires more confidence in the steps to get there and if these are outlined then people can gain confidence and accept the vision more readily.

What does it mean for us\me? In the back of everybodies mind whenever a rousing speech or vision is set out there is a little voice that says, "So What?", or in other words, "What does this mean for me?".
This often will be thought of in terms of remuneration of some sought but also in terms of how will I be involved in this. The vision will paint a picture of a wonderful future but what part will I play in helping make this happen? Do I have a part? How will I be involved? All sorts of questions like this will be asked. Maybe even some cynical ones like "We've heard this all before.".

The Methods
Nothing beats "hearing from the horse's mouth", so the leader of the organisation needs to stand up and clearly layout the vision for the organisation answering the Why, How and What questions.

Beyond this initial communication you need to account for people who aren't there to hear, people who process in different ways, and people who need to hear something several times to fully understand and take on board the vision (this last group is somewhere between 99-100% of the population!).

Having the vision and what it means for us written down in various forms will enable people to pick it up and process it at their own pace.

Repeating the vision is another key method to use. However, remember you can always have too much of a good thing! When the vision is launched it is appropriate to repeat the core of the vision at every opportunity.

Encouraging people to discuss and feedback to the leadership can be helpful. Doing this inevitably will bring up ideas and views that are significantly different to the leadership and the vision. Ignoring these views and people is the wrong thing to do. There will always be actions and strategies that we wouldn't do or follow but, we will still follow leaders if we feel our opinions are heard and respected. Ignoring the views and ideas of people can lead to the situation where people feel that they might as well just ignore your vision. They will certainly not put effort into achieving it and possibly will just leave.

In summary:
  • Make sure your vision makes sense
  • Make it memorable
  • Consider the questions people have
  • Use all the available methods and encourage discussion and interaction

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