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Grounds for a Vision

February 21, 2012 | Comments: 0 | Views: 317

First and foremost, one of the most important products of an effective team is a vision. In order for a team to really work well together, it's necessary to create a commonly held image of the ideal outcome. Much like a blueprint for the construction of a building, a team's vision provides guidance to its members as they plan the appropriate steps to pursue their goal. The team's vision is saturated in values that add meaning and purpose to the team's work together. Typically, it encompasses the product we are going to produce together and the process we'll go through together. Engrained in our vision are our operating norms and commitments to one another and to the stakeholders of our team's efforts.

Our vision is a step into our collective future because it's a potential product in the making, and it's built upon hope and hard work. It's an ideal made to inspire others to input their best effort, and it's a vehicle to raise the bar of the quality of product the team will produce.

According to Burt Nanus, author of Visionary Leadership, the following forces are unleashed when a successful vision is present:

It attracts commitment and energizes people.It creates meaning in worker's lives.It establishes a standard of excellence.It bridges the present and the past.

A. How Do You Know When Your Vision Isn't Clear Or Accepted?

Is there evidence that some team members are confused about the purpose? Are there frequent disagreements about priorities for the team's focus or efforts? Are meetings unorganized, moving from one thought to another without direction or relevance?Are team members lifeless when together? Do team members complain about the lack of challenge or indicate that they dread getting together because they're not having fun anymore? Are they cynical or pessimistic about the team's project?Is the team losing credibility in the organization?Is the team out of sync with the organization's priorities or trends?Is there excessive resistance among team members that are unwilling to accept responsibility or ownership for team projects?Do team members avoid risks and insist on sticking to their specific role?Is a shared sense of progress or momentum lacking on the team's projects?Is there a hyperactive rumor mill because people are constantly working on their issues outside of the team rather than confronting issues openly and directly within the team?

B. Forces That Hinder Team Efforts To Establish A Vision

Overemphasis on task- The desire to immediately become productive can seduce a group into grabbing the first and most apparent symptom and its seemingly "obvious solution." Following an intense, and often unfocused, flurry of activity, the group fails to make any real impact. Sadly, this is often chalked up as additional evidence that "teams don't work" rather than appropriately acknowledged as the result of an ineffective, unstructured initial attempt. Assuming that the goal is obvious- Just as multiple witnesses of an accident will later describe the event in very different ways, each member of a team perceives the desired outcome of the team's efforts from a unique, biased, personal perspective. While the perceptions may be related, they will rarely form an aligned vision. In reality, to create a clear vision, a committed discussion about desired outcomes must take place. Members must be willing to confront differences and to create consensus. Personal bias toward independence- Typically, our culture operates with a survival of the fittest mentality, the idea that if you are smart and work hard enough, you can do it on your own. Our organizations' reward systems have traditionally included promotions, bonuses and raises based on each person's ability to produce individual outcomes. But, participation, teamwork, interdependence and trust are required if a team hopes to operate as a cohesive unit that's pursuing a mutual goal. This can be a significant shift in strategy and can be extremely uncomfortable for individuals who believe the only way to get anything done is to do it yourself. To arrive at a shared vision, teams must discuss, debate, disagree and compromise as necessary. Arriving at a common vision can be a painful, lengthy process for those who are inflexible and prefer to feel in control. Failure to identify the team's vision as real and necessary work- There is a common misconception that it's a waste of time to clarify a team's vision. Typically, those in support of such a belief indirectly imply it through lack of participation or other disruptive behaviors. They are usually in favor of moving forward prematurely because they fail to recognize that the vision has been poorly developed. They have little to no stake in the commitment of the vision. Again, the team is at risk when certain members are half-hearted in their commitment to the team's success.

C. Dimensions of a Team's Vision

i. Focus: While determining your vision, your team will answer the following questions:

What are we chartered to do?What is our purpose?What do we want?What do we most aspire to?What are our objectives?What does a desirable outcome look like?

Some key questions to clarity the vision's focus:

Who are our most important stakeholders and/or customers?What are the top 3-5 priorities of those customers and/or stakeholders?What are the risks our team might face in pursuit of those expectations?Considering the stakeholders' demands and the potential risks, what do we most want our team to produce? What's possible? What breakthroughs can we reach for?What realities are present? (I.e., physical and geographical boundaries, resource limitations, time constraints, etc.)

ii. Future Context: This aspect of the vision has a future focus to it. It is based on the realization that nothing will remain static as we take steps to fulfill our purpose. Practically speaking, it involves trying to anticipate some of the elements that we must think about and be prepared to deal with if we hope to fulfill our purpose and achieve our vision. As we take steps into the future to achieve our team vision, what changes in our environment will our vision have to endure? In the future...

What changes can be expected in the needs and wants that our team serves?What changes can be expected in the major customers/stakeholders we serve?What changes can be expected in our economic environments?What external changes can be expected that could affect our teamwork? (I.e., social, political, technological, etc.)

D. Methods To Establish A Team Vision

Once your team has fully researched and discussed the factors that influence vision scope and future context, your team is ready to take steps toward building consensus on the team's vision. Here are some tried-and-tested approaches to developing the vision.

Draw a picture of the current reality of the situation your team is trying to remedy or address. Each individual explains his/her picture to the other team members.Draw a picture of the organization, as you want it to be. Everyone explains the preferred vision he/she has drawn.Discuss common themes, hopes, expectations, etc.Draw a collective picture.Delegate someone to draft a written version of the team's vision.

E. Coaching Others To Create Their Vision

According to Peter Block, a consultant committed to organizational development, three qualities to look for in a vision statement, include:

Depth- It should come from the heart. Clarity- Vagueness is not a way of committing to a vision. Responsibility- Victims make boring vision statements. Talk about your team as though it was up to you to transform it.

F. Summary

A team's vision is a value-based, worded expression that helps team members and stakeholders see what the team is trying to accomplish in the future. It is an image, an illustration of our collective imaginations, which describes what we hope to accomplish. Whether it is rich in texture with values and emotions, a slogan, a team logo, a metaphor, or a combination of any of these, it represents the team's ideal hopes. It answers the questions: what are we trying to accomplish together, and what will success look like? There are many reasons teams fail to create a common vision, but it's an essential ingredient to the team's formula as they strive to sustain high performance.

Nanus, B. Visionary Leadership.San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1992.

Block, P. The Empowered Manager: Positive Political Skills at Work. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1987.

Doug C. Watsabaugh, senior partner at WCW Partners, understands how to meet your unique performance challenges. With more than 20 years of experience, WCW Partners is a performance-improvement company that helps businesses revitalize their results and achieve record-breaking performance.

If you are looking to excel in sales, service or leadership, let Doug develop the capability in you!

Source: EzineArticles
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