Creating Goals and a Vision

How to Create Goals and Vision for Your Group

In order for a group/organization to succeed, it must have goals and a vision that everyone in the organization is committed to. Therefore, it is essential that every group/organization create goals, a vision, and a vision statement.

What's in a Vision Statement?

Martin Luther King, Jr. said, "I have a dream," and what followed was a vision that changed a nation. That famous speech is a dramatic example of the power that can be generated by a person who communicates a compelling vision of the future.

Management author Tom Peters identified a clear vision of the desired future state of the organization as an essential component of high performance.

Widely-read organizational development author Warren Bennis identified a handful of traits that made great leaders great. Among them is the ability to create a vision.

What is a Vision and How Do I Get One?

A vision is defined as: a guiding image of success formed in terms of a contribution to society.

There is one universal rule of planning: You will never be greater than the vision that guides you. No Olympic athlete ever got to the Olympics by mistake; a compelling vision of his or her stellar performance inevitably guides all the sweat and tears for many years. The vision statement should require the organization's members to stretch their expectations, aspirations, and performance. Without that powerful, attractive, valuable vision, why bother?

How a Vision is Used

A vision is a guide for implementing goals. This is because the development of goals are driven by what you are trying to accomplish or your group’s/organization's purposes.

A vision answers the question, "What will success look like?" It is the pursuit of this image of success that really motivates people to work together.

A vision statement should be realistic and credible, well articulated and easily understood, appropriate, ambitious, and responsive to change. It should orient the group's energies and serve as a guide to action. It should be consistent with the organization's values. In short, a vision should challenge and inspire the group to achieve its mission.

The Impact of Vision

John F. Kennedy did not live to see the achievement of his vision for NASA, but he set it in motion when he said, "By the end of the decade, we will put a man on the moon." That night, when the moon came out, we could all look out the window and imagine... And when it came time to appropriate the enormous funds necessary to accomplish this vision, Congress did not hesitate. Why? Because this vision spoke powerfully to values Americans held dear: America as a pioneer and America as world leader.

In an amazing longitudinal study on goal setting, Yale University surveyed the graduating class of 1953 on commencement day, to determine if they had written goals for what they wanted their lives to become. Only three percent had such a vision. In 1973, the surviving members of the class of 1953 were surveyed again. The three percent who had a vision for what they wished their lives would become had accumulated greater wealth than the other 97 percent combined.

Great wealth, a man on the moon, brother and sisterhood among the races of the globe... what is your organization's vision?

Shared Vision

To a leader, the genesis of the dream is unimportant. The great leader is the servant of the dream, the bearer of the myth, the story teller. "It is the idea (vision) that unites people in the common effort, not the charisma of the leader," writes Robert Greenleaf in Leadership Crisis.

The Process for Creating a Vision

Creating a vision begins with and relies heavily on intuition and dreaming. As part of the process, you may brainstorm with your group/organization what you would like to accomplish in the future. Talk about and write down the values that you share in pursuing that vision. Different ideas do not have to be a problem. People can spur each other on to more daring and valuable dreams and visions -- dreams of changing the world that they are willing to work hard for.

The vision may evolve throughout a goal setting process. Or, it may form in one person's head in the shower one morning! The important point is that members of an organization/group without a vision may toil, but they cannot possibly be creative in finding new and better ways to get closer to a vision without that vision formally in place.

Perceptions of Ideal Futures: An Exercise in Forming Vision

This section outlines an exercise you may use to assist your organization/group in defining its vision. By using this exercise to develop your group/ organizational vision, you may be better assured that the vision statement that is developed is a shared vision.

At a retreat or a weekly meeting, take an hour to explore your vision. Breaking into small groups helps increase participation and generate creativity. Agree on a rough time frame, say five to ten years. Ask people to think about the following questions: How do you want your community (residence hall and campus) to be different? What role do you want your group/organization to play in your community(residence hall and campus?) What will success look like?

Then ask each group to come up with a metaphor for your group/organization, and to draw a picture of success: "Our organization/group is like ... a mariachi band - all playing the same music together, or like a train - pulling important cargo and laying the track as we go, or ...." The value of metaphors is that people get to stretch their minds and experiment with different ways of thinking about what success means to them.

Finally, have all the groups share their pictures of success with each other. One person should facilitate the discussion and help the group discuss what they mean and what they hope for. Look for areas of agreement, as well as different ideas that emerge. The goal is to find language and imagery that your organization's members can relate to as their vision for success.

Caution: Do not try to write a vision statement with a group. (Groups are great for many things, but writing is not one of them!). Ask one or two people to try drafting a vision statement based on the group's discussion, bring it back to the group, and revise it until you have something that your members can agree on and that your leaders share with enthusiasm.

(Source: Alliance for Nonprofit Management)