In any organization, effort can be divided into two categories. Effort that helps achieve the vision and effort that does not. There is some work that is difficult to correctly categorize–especially in complex organizations with a great deal of complexity. However, most of the time there is a great deal of effort expended on items that are clearly not in support of the vision.
It is probably impossible for an organization to operate at 100% efficiency. In many cases, inefficiency results, not from natural organizational entropy, but because every person has a different view of the vision.
When information is lacking, the human mind becomes creative. There have been studies to determine the reliability of testimony by court witnesses. In the study, people were exposed to a situation in ways that certain details were intentionally unknowable. However, after repeatedly being asked about the unknowable details they began to “remember”. These memories didn’t come from their actual experience. The subject’s brains were filling in details purely from imagination.
Now think about an organization full of people with an incomplete understanding of the vision. Every day they are faced with situations where understanding the vision is required in order to make the correct choice. Over time, they will fill in the details themselves and create their own personal version of the vision.
Since a good deal of this personal vision comes directly from their imagination, it is not surprising that the vision they create often is more aligned with their personal vision than the actual vision of the organization. This isn’t their fault. It is the natural way the human mind works.
There was a large church that was trying to identify better with its congregation. During a meeting of some of the staff, one of the newer staff members asked, “Who is our target market?” to better understand exactly who the organization was trying to reach.
A pastor at the meeting responded to the question by saying that the target market was people who hadn’t ever been to a church. The other staff members pointed out that 99% of the sermons preached by the senior pastor were targeted toward people who were already churchgoers and often wouldn’t even make much sense to people who had never attended a church.
The fact that the staff had to ask who they were trying to reach was a clear indication that the vision was not being communicated clearly from the top leadership. This pastor had created his version of the vision based on his personal preferences. This wasn’t something that he was doing intentionally; it is just the way the human mind works.
If each individual in an organization is creating a separate version of the vision that is heavily influenced by their own personal preference, it is amazing that organizations can function at all. But remember that people are only going to use their imagination in the areas where information is lacking. If the vision is well defined and effectively communicated, the areas left to people’s imagination is minimized.
If half of an individual’s personal view of the vision is coming purely from their own imagination, it is likely that half of the effort they are expending is not in alignment with the true vision of the organization. If everyone in the organization is filling in holes in the vision, then it is likely that half of the organization’s effort is being expended toward the focused vision and the other half is pulling the organization in different, random directions.
Much of the benefit of a large organization in the first place, is the efficiency that comes from having many people all expending effort toward the same goal. When a significant portion of the effort is being expended in random directions, much of the value of having an organization is lost.
When a leader regularly communicates a clear vision, the amount of wasted effort is minimized. In addition, the more effort across the entire organization is focused in the same direction, the more synergy will exist between individuals and departments.