When I’m through…everyone will have one.
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal…
Martin Luther King, Jr.
I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the Earth.
President John F. Kennedy
These visionary leaders painted a picture of what was truly possible. If not for their visions, the world might be a very different place. Of course, they knew there were uncertainties and obstacles on the path to achievement, but they didn’t concern themselves with them.
They looked out upon the horizon, professed the desired future state, and then inspired others to achieve it. Establishing a vision—a purposeful direction—is a fundamental responsibility of leadership and a powerful tool to create value for your organization.
Regular readers of this blog know I believe in the power of the right question. The right question helped establish the vision for our consulting business, Barry-Wehmiller Design Group, propelling it onto an unprecedented new trajectory.
Design Group had been performing well, with relatively strong growth in a flat market. With their leadership team in the midst of budgeting and forecasting growth for the coming three-year time period, we challenged them with this question: What if the only limitation to your growth is your ability to attract and integrate talent into Barry-Wehmiller’s vibrant culture?
This simple question profoundly changed the way they thought about and planned for the future. Each of their leaders embraced this vision, shared it with their teams, and began to build a business model around the idea. Which clients did we want to attract? Where are they located? What type of services would those clients expect?
Through the visioning process, a regional diversification strategy emerged to launch expansion offices near target clients and markets, not only driving growth of the business but also improving employee retention through better work/life balance. A vision was developed for the long-range leadership structure required to sustain this envisioned growth.
Design Group named its new vision the “Horizon Plan” because it established the ideal future state to stretch toward. Through the Horizon Plan, the leadership team identified the potential for 25% annual revenue growth. Incredibly, Design Group reached its first year Horizon goal…and reached its vision goals again in years two and three! The visioning exercise put them on a trajectory that doubled the firm in three years! After achieving the three-year Horizon goal, the leadership team continued to embrace the visioning process, resulting in 20% compounded growth over the next three years as well.
The powerful process of visioning has subsequently been replicated across Barry-Wehmiller’s nine operating businesses. Each leadership team regularly connects to their vision for the business, and it’s a key driver for the more than 18% compounded growth that Barry-Wehmiller enjoys.
Three keys to our visioning process are:
- Engage in a conversation about “what is possible” if you reach out toward your potential, unencumbered by traditional financial planning;
- Allow executives to think big, without fear of being pinned down to financial objectives;
- Work backward from that vision until each division, each office, each team and each individual understand the contribution that they will make to achieve the vision.
Like Henry Ford, Martin Luther King Jr. and President Kennedy, inspiring others through your visionary leadership offers the potential to turn possibilities into realities.