Vision Gone Wrong: Volume 1

Automotive Vision is Out of Gas

I’ll lead off with a disclaimer: building a Fortune 500 enterprise is an incredible achievement no matter how you slice it.  These companies have had extraordinary visionaries at the helm for a long time or they never would have made it to their current size and scale.  So while I am going to share an opinion about the value of their current vision statements, it goes without saying that they have accomplished something most (probably all) of us can barely imagine.

That being true, the vision of this global automotive leader is brutal.

What do I mean by brutal?  Well, you read it first and see what you think.  For context, if you did not read my recent article on A New Vision for Vision, you should read that first.  Here you go.

“People working together as a lean, global enterprise to make people’s lives better through automotive and mobility leadership”

That’s it.  Can you imagine yourself in that future?  When are we going to get there?  Has there been a single day in your career when you did not work together?  Are we not already global?  Maybe we are not lean, that’s something we can work toward.  I like making people’s lives better; that’s something we can rally around for sure.  But what the heck is automotive and mobility leadership?  Do we have that yet?  How will we know when we have it?

There is a great acronym from Martin Seligman that accounts for what his research concludes are the critical five areas that lead to a good life.  PERMA, detailed below, is a concept that Zingerman’s teaches should be included in a strong, inspiring, and compelling vision statement.

  • Positive Emotion
  • Engagement
  • Relationships
  • Meaning
  • Achievement

If you want to learn more about each dimension of PERMA, check out this article from a positive psychology website which is pretty solid.  Or give the folks at ZingTrain a call.

So looking back at this automotive giant’s vision statement… do you get to the end of that sentence and feel overcome with positive emotion?  Does making people’s lives better describe enough to satisfy your inner desire for meaning in your work?  Maybe it does… but for me, there is a lot of emotion and detail missing to know if working in that company is going to provide anything PERMA in my life.

Let’s revisit a fundamental question, “Why do we have a vision?”  Well, why do you? Think about it a minute.  What do you believe about vision?

Total honesty, when I read the vision above, it feels exactly like a group of MBAs met in a fancy conference room for a day and hammered out this carefully crafted statement.  You can’t go wrong, you can’t offend anybody, and you never need to revisit this vision because it’s timeless.  Perfect!

Except that is not the point of visioning.  At least not as Zingerman’s teaches it, and I agree with them 100%.

The point is to provide an inspiring picture of the future, at a particular point in time, described in enough detail that you know when you have arrived, and addressing the parts of the company that will provide the PERMA your heart is looking for.  When people read it, they know where you are going.  When you do annual planning, you know what direction to head.  When you talk about strategy with your leadership team, you can predict if outcomes will get you where you want to go.  Every person in your company is doing work to get somewhere.  How can we possibly be doing the right work if we don’t even know where we are going?

Planning one year at a time, or even 3 to 5 years out, is not enough.  Here is what happens (I know because I’ve seen it over the past ten years).  You work really hard during annual planning to put plans on the page for the next five years.  The leaders today pour their best thinking into the plans.  It’s locked, it’s loaded, and we get to work.  Then, a year later, we start into planning again.  When we pull out last year’s document as a guide, we have a conflict because the new leaders believe that our strategy needs to change in order to hit the numbers.  So we pivot and change the plans.  Then the next year we tweak the plans again.  If you compare what we said we would do in year five to what actually happens in that year, they hardly resemble each other.

When your view is so short term, it’s easy to get off course and not realize it.  And, since you are constantly tweaking the course, from a direction that is already off course, it just compounds and gets worse over time.  The original vision is lost.

“People working together as a lean, global enterprise to make people’s lives better through automotive and mobility leadership”

Does that make you want to wake up in the morning?

Again, I’m not going to tell anyone how to do vision.  It’s possible that this is really working!  But my opinion is that it inspired more Dilbert cartoons than employees.

Want to see an example of the Zingerman’s way?  Check out Zingerman’s 2009: A Food Odyssey and let me know what you think.

One Comment on “Vision Gone Wrong: Volume 1

  1. Pingback: Vision Gone Wrong: Volume 2 | thezachwhite

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: