When your business needs vision

Unless you’re a serial entrepreneur, a lack of vision can be hard to diagnose. Here are the top three signs your organization has a vision problem:

  1. You don’t know how to filter the multiple good opportunities before you.
  2. You don’t know what big risk to take next.
  3. Your top priority is preserving the existing system.

Vision is a goal. It is not a story, an idea, or plan. It is not a means to an end—it is the end itself.

All systems are dynamic, so visions once achieved can’t be maintained forever without new risks, new goals—in other words, new vision.

Is vision really that important?

There are many excellent articles about the tension between vision and execution and which of the two matters most. The question is a good one, but like all really great questions there is no universal black-and-white answer. Vision and execution are both always necessary, but visions tend to look a little different depending on the size and maturity of an organization:

  • Large-scale enterprises tend to have visions that are formal, with clear metrics and time horizons (often 3-5 years) that can align efforts across many diverse constituencies.
  • Startups can usually get by with a short statement of the disruptive innovation they’re trying to create, and then a rigorous focus on the 90-day plan.
  • A small business‘s vision is often implicitly linked to the life vision of the founder, so the two must be looked at together and either merged or de-coupled.

For more thoughts on vision, see my earlier post “What do you want?”

If you still don’t believe that vision’s important, just ask a giant robot dinosaur.