Rethinking a Positive View of the Future
What does it mean to have a vision? For the moment, let’s set aside all answers that involve hallucinogenic substances (uh… drugs).
I never even considered this question until I was out of college. My first exposure to vision was when I got my first job and sure enough, on the wall and in my on-boarding documents, was the “corporate vision” in all its splendor. This one sentence vision statement anchored in my mind what it meant to have a vision. A Fortune 200 company surely knows what it’s doing when it comes to vision!
I believe now that I could not have been more wrong. Vision, real inspiration about a positive future, is so much more than I had ever seen in business before.
So what changed my thinking? It is actually “who” changed my thinking. Zingerman’s owner and author Ari Weinzweig. If you are not familiar with Zingerman’s, then you need to be. The Ann Arbor, MI based company has more to teach you about how to run a great business than most (maybe all) MBA programs out there. Maybe it’s unfair for me to say that, since I have not been through all the MBA programs out there. I’ll say it another way. There is nothing I have ever read or been taught that is more compelling, and personally inspiring for the role business can play in your whole-life fulfillment, than what Ari teaches (and lives every day in his company).
I’m not going to try and re-teach what Ari and the team at ZingTrain have already put into a variety of amazing resources. To go deep into how Zingerman’s teaches vision, check out one of the following:
- Read the book, “A Lapsed Anarchist’s Approach to Building a Great Business”
- Go to the 2-Day Seminar at ZingTrain
Let me jump to the bottom line. The vision statements I’ve seen on the walls of Fortune 200 companies are so broadly defined and unattainable that they do not inspire people, at all. They are often confused and overlapped with the mission statement. Most employees don’t even know the difference. Real people, working in these companies, do not wake up in the morning and feel inspired to go to work because of a one-sentence idea posted on the wall that can never be reached.
What Zingerman’s teaches is totally different, and incredibly powerful. Vision is an positive and intimate portrayal of a defined point in time in our future. It describes that future in enough detail that you will be able to recognize when you have arrived. It challenges you and your team to push the limits and face uncertainty of “how” you will achieve it, but the vision is strategically sound. Vision is from the heart, an inside-out work, whose result is so compelling that people want to come to work and move closer to that future. Vision is taught to every employee, and is a driving force of employee engagement and fulfillment in meaningful work. It’s fun to write a vision!
I was fortunate to be given the opportunity to attend the 2-Day Seminar with ZingTrain last week. To reinforce what I learned, and share the concept with you, I’m going to go find the corporate vision statements of a few popular companies. In the next couple articles, I’ll share my thoughts with you about that vision, and explain how the Zingerman’s method would make it look different.
Your job is to check out the visioning resources linked above, then be ready to decide for yourself whose side you believe… the MBA school of thought, or where I have landed now, the Zingerman’s way of visioning.
“Where there is no vision, the people perish” (Proverbs 29:18 KJV)