When an organisation stops growing and needs to move to the next stage, or wants to engage in a real growth project, it’s essential to communicate a vision, to give direction each employee, to guide and inspire them.
Indeed, a thriving business is one which is constantly rethinking, reorganising and changing strategy, without ever ignoring its core values, somehow managing the delicate balance of continuity and change.
TO BUILD A COMPANY VISION, TWO big STEPS MUST BE taken
A Define the DNA of your business: what you stand for (values), and why your business exists (its main aim).
This is the foundation on which an organisation builds as it grows or changes.
Determining your company’s DNA means writing down a set of guiding principles that require no external justification; unchanging principles that do not take into account things like the competitive situation, for example. This is the most important definition that the Owner/Manager and team must make.
Discovering the DNA of the company means knowing who you are.
B Create a big, ambitious project for your business: what you aspire to create, become accomplish, as well as what change will be required to progress. You must have a grand project, simple to explain, ambitious and inspiring, a goal that allows you to concentrate all the efforts of the company on meeting this great challenge.
Creating a grand project means you know where you’re going, you’re lighting the way.
HOW TO do it, in PRACTICE?
1. IDENTIFYING CORE VALUES
List the values that are most important to you.
If there are more than 5 or 6, try to distinguish between what is unchanging and what is affected by operational practices, strategic choices or cultural norms.
For each value identified, ask yourself: is it essential to the company even though it might be damaging in some way? If it is not truly vital, then it is not a core value and should become a part of the strategy.
Also, ask yourself the following question: Imagine that the chosen value no longer makes a difference in your market, would you still keep it?
If you have difficulty formulating these values, get feedback from individuals in the company. Create a very small group of people who in your view, can really represent the values of the business, as you see them. Ask them the following:
- Which work values do you hold personally, whether or not you’re rewarded by the company?
- What would your children say about your values at work?
- If you were to create a business activity in another professional sector, what are the core values which you would always stick to and would like to share?
2. stating THE main AIM
This is essential, because you must be able to explain, share and keep to the main aim of the business. What is my goal? The aim is, by definition, a difficult ideal to reach – a star that shines on the horizon.
The aim can’t be reduced to a description of operational successes in identified markets or to the implementation of specific technical solutions. The main aim is much more a promise, a commitment to the stakeholders: the employees, the customers and the other parties with interests in the company’s business.
To cite known examples, the aim of 3M should not be defined as providing sticky tape, but as a perpetual quest for innovation to solve unresolved problems. Walt Disney’s aim is not to produce cartoons but to make people happy …
If you have difficulty stating the main aim: use the « 5 whys » technique starting from the statement of the service offering.
Example: We offer X services and Y products: Why are these important? With each of the answers, ask again why it is important. After 5 « why’s”, the essential aim should be revealed.
Alternatively, ask yourself what would be lost if the business vanished one day? Or how important it is for the company to continue to exist.
Stating the values and the main aim has the advantage of attracting individuals whose personal values are aligned to those of the company and who recognise their own goals in those of the business. It also makes it possible to retain employees who feel comfortable with the company ideology and to gradually distinguish them from those not so involved in the project. Therefore, an element of cooperation is crucial when launching a growth project.
3. FOCUS AROUND A grand, BOLD project
The idea is to set a sizeable goal for the business, not just a tactical or strategic operational objective. It’s a long-term undertaking that will transform the company, and requires considerable effort on everyone’s part. This ambitious project must be supported by the majority of employees, who do so because it allows them to dream. This grand project, by its very nature, involves a risk: that of not achieving it. But it will test the entire company structure because if it is successful, it fundamentally changes the shape of things.
It is then necessary to communicate it with living, simple words, images that stick in the mind and explain how to accomplish it.
Perhaps the most successful example is that of Ford, who explained his project in the following way:
« I will build a motorcar for the great multitude … it will be so low in price that no man making a good salary will be unable to own one… When I’m through, everybody will be able to afford one, and everyone will have one. The horse will have disappeared from our highways, the automobile will be taken for granted… «
To define a great project, we must answer these questions:
- What should our company look like in 10 or 20 years?
- How should it be perceived by its employees?
- What do we want others to say about us in 10 or 20 years?
Several types of major projects exist that can give food for thought:
- Projects with a quantitative goal, like Walmart wanting to become the biggest global company in terms of turnover
- Projects with a qualitative goal, like Ford wanting to make the car accessible to everyone
- Projects to upstage a competitor, like Nike wanting to outperform Adidas in the 70s/80s
- Projects wanting to adopt business models aiming to replicate market leader success: Darty wanting to do for electricals what Google does for the internet
Seeking this goal should be a very creative step, where one has to give free rein to one’s desires. There can be no constraints. Only by creating a genuine new dynamic within the company and getting the employees involved will you find out if you’ve hit the mark.