Visions come in all sizes shapes and forms. Our intent here is not to look at them all in detail. There are many consulting companies that will be happy to help an organization create and refine a vision that is best for them. What we want to do is look at some examples to show the elements that are best when one is looking for integrated business, technical, and intellectual property management.
One of the most successful investment companies, Bridgewater Associates, LP set as their goals “to produce excellent results, meaningful work, and meaningful relationships through radical truth and transparency” under the leadership of Ray Dalio. This vision has served to guide the company to financial success for over 30 years, through good times and bad. It is a testament to getting the vision statement right so that it focuses work efforts, and how they are to be carried out, through many economic cycles.
At Hallmark cards their vision is stated as belief statements. There are five of them. The first one is that “our products and service must enrich people’s lives and enhance their relationships”. The second is that “creativity and quality – in our concepts of products and services- are essential to our success”. Third, that “the people of Hallmark are our company’s most valuable resource”. Fourth, that “distinguished financial performance is a must, not as an end in itself, but as a means to accomplish our broader mission”, and that fifth, “our private ownership must be preserved”. These statements when constructed were related to a paper greeting card company, but because of their positive stance, they have served the company well though it is his move forward into the Internet era.
In contrast to written statements, a technical group in James Rivers Flexible Packaging Technical Center in the 1980s took different approach. Its vision shown in the “Flexible Packaging Technical Center Vision Statement” figure. What is a striking here is the vision was not put in words but rather in a picture.
The graphic is clearly a sign of the 1980’s when improving quality and most important service was an organizational change that the group was trying to make. To do so required cooperation of many people and adoption of new ways of doing things. Just as the Hallmark word vision above described for people a behavior that was expected, this pure pictorial vision accomplished the same thing. It also had the advantage in that the particular region where the operation was located there are a large number of non-native speaking employees. To them the picture spoke much more richly than words ever could.
Other examples of vision statements come from some of the name brands in the world. For example at General Electric (GE) the corporate vision is ‘We bring good things to life’. In another example the Ford Motor Company vision is ‘to become the world’s leading consumer company for automotive products and services’. Clearly these both sound lofty. But his many US consumers know there is a big difference in the credibility of the GE vision and that of Ford and the other US car manufacturers. GE’s vision is credible and backed by the company’s performance. Ford’s vision sounds good but consumer’s experience from the infrastructure designed by management down to the dealer behavior dealing with consumers misses the mark. In order to drive consistent performance across an organization’s business, technical, and intellectual property personnel a vision will have to be inclusive, compelling, and personal. Executives down to those that the lowest level of the organization need to walk the talk.
As a final example of vision statements we will look at the one for the Corporate Research Center of Avery Dennison Corp. in the 1990s. That vision was divided into an “outside view” and an “inside view” parts. Each part also had a word and corresponding pictorial component. It was divided so that two pictures showed what individuals outside the organization would see and experience, contrasted with that which individuals working in the environment would see and experience. .
The Research Center’s vision of what the business world outside themselves would see and experience would be “a research center that was first to commercialize innovative products processes and services with measurably higher value for customers throughout the world”. This statement was supplemented with the vision picture is shown in the “Corporate Research Center External Vision” figure.
Remembering the vision constructed in the 1990s one sees a real mix of technology everything from satellite communications to an old sailing ship. The organization felt strongly that in their environment, that of creating new office products and pressure sensitive label materials, it was a mix of old proven technology and the latest state-of-the-art solutions that would being most value to customers and the corporation’s stakeholders as well. Again this particular organization was situated in a work environment where people from many different cultures from around the world were present. In this case it was found that a short word description along with pictures most effectively communicated what the organization was about.
The second half of the research center is vision look internally. It described what the technical world was like inside their research Center and what a person in that organization would be experiencing and valuing. It would be “the ultimate high output learning network community of individuals”. This is statement was graphically represented as shown in the “Corporate Research Center Internal Vision” figure.
This picture represented a learning journey of many individuals coming and going by different means. Looking closely at the individuals and the way in which they are acting with one another gives the feeling of the organization’s networking capability. The mountaintop was a representation of “the ultimate” as opposed to a representation of “isolation”. Again the picture view of how people were to work with one another said a lot more than many, many pages of text ever could.