The Anatomy of a Vision

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The Anatomy of a Vision

Category : Blog , Vision

The Anatomy of Vision

The beautiful thing about research is that it is great OBJECTIVE canon. Canon is a measuring stick, a standard, against which something else can be judged. We’ve almost lost sight of objective truth in this country and we should be careful to safeguard it. When we’re objective, we’re honest and we see things as they really are. (I know, I know, it can be hard at times, but important things usually are more difficult to accomplish than the unimportant ones.)

When Jim Collins and his team ( a really great group of OBJECTIVE people in my view), looked at the 2500 public companies they studied, and when they had narrowed their search down to the 11 who fit the criteria of having out-performed the Market for 15 or more consecutive years, they found some startling things. (To buy the book click here. P.S. I get nothing if you buy the book.)

They found similarities in HOW the 11 companies achieved their success. When something is randomly repeated over and over, it is a sign that it is “true.” The traits that the Collins team “discovered” in the 11 peak performing companies were repeated in each unrelated company, across industry lines. This objective truth, speaks loudly to those of us struggling to create lasting, effective (GREAT) companies.

In my previous installment, I talked about the idea of “First Who, Then What.” It’s the principle that it’s MORE important to have really GREAT people, especially at the core of the organization, (these people will make the hiring decisions going forward), than it is to establish the VISION.

But vision is critical too, as it is the Canon and source, for every succeeding decision. But, you may ask, then why not pursue vision before people? The reason is this: if you establish the vision first, what you end up doing is hiring a bunch of people who “assist” you in accomplishing it. While this is good, it’s not great. Greatness comes when a group of really great people all SHARE the same vision. The collective sharing of a vision makes it more distinct, more vivid. When this dynamic occurs, the vision is CLEARER, and more TARGETED and very BIG. And by default the psychological ownership of that vision is very very strong, something that cannot be underestimated. To accomplish this process you might enlist the help of a “catalyst.” A catalyst is something that “causes” something to happen without taking anything from the process. (Contact us at

But, back to Vision-

The great companies developed what the Collins team identified as their Hedgehog Concept. This is depicted in the book (as is the reason for the name) as three essential and inter-connected circles, which together, make one big circle, The Hedgehog Concept. Each part of the HHC is absolutely vital and unique.

Here are the three parts:

Determine what you’re passionate about. I use the word JOY. Joy is feeling of wonder, a feeling of exhilaration, and fulfillment that “turns your crank” as they say. You can see why the right people are so important, can’t you? Pessimists or cynics need not apply. But healthy skeptics are welcomed if they have passion. But what is the organization passionate about?

What can you be the best in the world at? I’ve found this to be very difficult to nail down. I worked with a book manufacturer who realized they were passionate about “achieving” (accomplishing things, getting them right) and that what they were really good at was tackling problems, so much so that they occasionally in the past gave themselves problems by “tweaking things” too much or by overanalyzing. In the Visioning Process they decided that they could be the best in the world at solving problems for their customers. What they dedicated themselves to was helping their customers to be successful, helping them to realize their visions. This approach is working because they’re good at solving problems and they really do want to help their customers succeed. It’s also improving customer loyalty. Duh?

Identify your key economic indicator. This is key because it gives EVERYBODY the critical feedback they need to know if things are moving TOWARD the VISION or away. As Ken Blanchard said in the “One Minute Manager”- still a classic- “Feedback is the Breakfast of Champions.” You need to boil down your operation to ONE number, one ratio, that is MEANINGFUL to everybody. One company uses Profit per Employee, another Sales per labor-hour, another uses Profit per Ton Produced, and another uses Contribution per Labor Dollar. Whatever you do, don’t make a snap decision here. You can start with one number, work it out, and see if it jazzes people when you talk about it. Does it produce automatic course corrections when it’s not right, or does it accelerate people when it’s on the right track. Make sure this is “tuned.”

The SUM of these three will produce a vision statement: a clear statement that describes a 20-30 year OUTCOME, a finished state. Jim Collins says it’s like describing your Everest. The next step is to create a VIVID, description of that mountain, because once you describe it in detail the “ownership” of it is exponential. Once the Vision is OWNED it can become real. From here you can chart a clear course to the top. The next step is to define the organization’s values. (more about this later).

Does you company or organization have the courage to become great?