A huge part of Comet’s activities with clients involves initiating and steering transformational activities to drive improvements both in customer experience and in internal business practices. Whilst it’s tempting to be swept up in the enthusiasm of beginning to instigate change, experience has taught me that it’s valuable to pause to reflect first; to clarify expectations amongst the Comet and client teams and to set a firm overarching goal of which everyone should feel ownership.
Often this goal-setting can take the form of crafting a shared Vision Statement – to act as a banner for change within the business, a standard around which the project team can rally. The process of devising such a statement is not without its pitfalls, however – if not carefully handled, the statement itself can become just another forgettable bit of strategy, or worse, a divisive element that contributes to disharmony in the team.
This being said, here are five tips for developing a powerful vision statement that acts to accelerate and empower your project:
- Collaborate. If you’re the project owner, it can seem easiest to squirrel yourself away and craft a statement either on your own, or solely in collaboration with one or two senior stakeholders (or whoever grudgingly frees up the time). This is a recipe for a statement that is instantly forgettable by dint of the team having no ownership over its creation. It’s really important to involve representatives from all levels of the team involved – not simply so that you can canvas a wider range of perspectives, but so that those who help to draft the statement can act as disseminators of the logic and thinking behind it once it’s adopted. Vision Statement sessions work best if they’re kept as active and mobile as possible – use a year’s worth of post-its, break into pairs/threes and feed back, keep the energy levels high by getting people to move around the room, generally encourage an atmosphere of creativity and liberated thought.
- Avoid blankness. Whilst it’s true that individuals shouldn’t come up with a statement alone, discussions around the statement will be kick-started if the group has two or three previously drafted examples of possible statements to talk around. Nothing feels as intimidating as being presented with a blank piece of paper and being told to fill it with wisdom – whereas constructive criticism of something already extant is far easier and inspires a wider range of ideas. Some questions you might want to ask your group when they’re presented with the first draft statements are ‘what’s not included here that should be?’ ‘how does this look from your perspective as [role]?’ ‘what could/should be removed from this statement?’
- No limits. One sure-fire way to kill a vision is to water it down before it’s even out of the gate. When you’re embedded in an organisation, it can be all too easy to have the spectres of a thousand previously-tried initiatives or the knowledge of hundreds of potential stumbling blocks lurking as a background to your discussions, meaning that visions dim to a faint shadow of what they might have been. Try to quash doubts or pessimism if they arise during the conversation – after all, if you can’t ‘blue sky’ during a vision statement session, when can you? Barriers to achieving the vision can be considered in a separate meeting, and who knows, some of them may not be as insurmountable as you think.
- Be memorable. There may well come a point in the group discussion where it feels more as though you’re crafting War and Peace than a snappy statement of intention, but don’t worry, that’s perfectly normal. Include lots of ideas, then see what you can trim in order to produce as concise and well-articulated statement as possible.
- Be unique. Once you have your first-group-drafted vision statement, take a detached look at it. One side-effect of group working is that the statement can become so much a compromise that it loses its distinctiveness. If what you’ve written could apply equally to any other industry and still hold true, it’s not unique enough. Successful vision statements should clearly apply to your company (and ideally your team) only – being sufficiently focused that it couldn’t be applied to other initiatives or types of business. To be a standard around which your team can rally, the more unique the statement is, the better it will fly.
The art of the vision statement is a tricky one to get exactly right, but if you succeed, you’ll produce a clarion call for your team, and a means for others within the business to easily grasp what it is you’re setting out to do with a project. Internal communication of initiatives (particularly where there’s complex technology involved) is vital to ensuring success and ideally recognition; a simple objective statement can work wonders in making this as easy as possible.
Jenni is a Senior Consultant for Comet’s UK Strategy and Insights Team and holds an MSc in Creative Advertising. She has led Customer Experience and Digital Strategy projects across a diverse range of industries, from media to travel to financial services, and past clients include the BBC, First Group, Lloyds Bank, Aegon and AXA. Currently, Jenni is in charge of the implementation of decisioning in the B2B space at Standard Life up in Edinburgh, and in her spare time acts as a freelance writer and editor.