Vision: The Beginning of Business Process Improvement

Recently I was contacted by a local company to discuss a proposal for business process improvement.  In a very limited discovery stage, I determined the CEO of the company did not have a vision of what he wanted.  He was focused on the business process improvement project but had not taken the time to identify where he ultimately wanted to take his company. It is very difficult, if not impossible, to improve a process if you don’t have an idea as to what you want the outcome look like, sound like, or to be.

Unfortunately, the word ‘vision’ has become a watered down word in corporate America.  The leadership writes warm and fuzzy mission statements and identifies a wish list for a vision statement.  Goals have become employee evaluation criteria instead of directional statements.  There isn’t a “fire in the belly” reason to make the vision a reality.  If the executive leadership doesn’t have and demonstrate that ‘fire in the belly,’ what makes them think that their staff and/or customers will?  The vision of a company is the destination of that individual company’s business journey.  In the mind of the creator, it is very real.  It is innovative, it is unique, and it reflects that company’s entire reason for existing.  The vision creates urgency.  Without the vision, you risk accepting mediocrity as a goal.  Without vision, you risk being distracted by the next shiny object that catches your attention.  The vision requires focus on what is wanted and needed—it is not focused on today’s circumstances. While outside business  consultants may be able to help a leader define his vision, it has to be the leader’s vision

Management consultants are paid well to come into a company and recommend business process improvement. And trust me, nothing is more annoying to a business consultant than watching companies choose to continue to repeat poor business decisions rather than slow down and do it right the first time.  It is amazing the number of clients that have chosen to continue the expense of “fixing” broken processes rather than invest what is needed to make sure it is right the first time. Identifying the vision for your company is the first step to a long term solution.  If you don’t know where you are going, you will continue to spend money, time, and resources taking a ‘stab in the dark’ approach.  If you haven’t identified the final destination, you will continue to wander aimlessly ‘fixing things’ in a reactive mode.

Once a vision is identified by a company, 3-5 goals should be outlined for a time frame that you identify.  Don’t get caught up in the “rule” that strategic planning should be for a 3-5 year window.  Determine what time frame you can comfortably lead to a final outcome for this phase of your company. When I lived in the Southwest, I began to accept that my clients did not think in long term strategy.  I was happy if we could get to an 18-month frame of discussion.  Establishing a vision and time frame can only be accomplished by you.  It is your vision, your fire in the belly, your organization.

Business process improvement is an admirable project.  It is one that is worthy of time, money and resources but only after you have identified what you want as an outcome or vision. You must be able to verbalize your vision in such detail that you can see it in your mind and describe it to others.  Without the vision, you will be leading an organization into an oasis that may not be the destination you truly intended.  Take charge of your business destination – create the vision of your organization.