Many leaders assume that everyone understands their vision. Often, there is a big gap between their vision and what the people they lead see as the vision. Unfortunately, many leaders don’t take the time to actually find out how well they have communicated their vision.
When the vision is unclear, people tend to default to doing whatever seems best to them. If they are effective at communicating their version of the vision to people they lead, you can easily end up with a direction where each department or organizational unit is heading in a very different direction.
I was sitting in a meeting at a medium sized organization that was having a discussion about branding strategy. One of the vice presidents gave his opinion on a branding issue and then casually mentioned how it aligned with the vision. The only problem was that the vision he articulated was in the complete opposite direction of what the CEO was trying to do.
The problem wasn’t that the CEO didn’t have a vision. He just hadn’t communicated it effectively to the rest of the organization. I’m sure he thought he had communicated the vision, but the test of a well-communicated vision is whether or not the people responsible for implementing the vision understand it.
A very simple way to test your organization’s vision alignment is ask people to write down the vision anonymously in a short paragraph. It doesn’t need to be a long drawn out thing, but this feedback will give you a much better idea of how well aligned everyone is. Keeping it anonymous helps people concentrate more on articulating the vision and less on worrying about getting it wrong. After all, you are really testing your performance, not their ability to remember.
Once you get the feedback, read over each and every vision statement. If you notice that most of them miss something that you consider to be important, that is a good sign that you need to do some more vision casting in that area. It is very likely that you’ll find things that aren’t part of your vision. These are areas where you may need to apply some course correction to make sure everyone is headed in the same direction.
If everyone comes back and states the vision exactly as you feel you’ve communicated it, consider yourself fortunate. Most of us will find that there is some room for improvement in conveying our vision.