When you read most vision statements, at best, they provide lip service to the customer. I have a tendency to agree, your vision statement should be about you. In a past podcast, Ari Weinzweig, one of the founding partners of Zingerman’s Community Businesses discussed his ideas of writing a vision, when he said;
The visioning work is really integral to what we do. There were four essays on it in the first part of the business book, and we don’t really do anything significant here without writing a vision and the vision is pretty in depth. Our 2020 vision is about six or seven pages. It describes how we work together, how we’re going to interact with the world. It talks about how we’re going to improve our quality and our service. It talks about our finances. It paints pictures of what we’re doing. It talks about fun, about opportunity, responsibility. Visioning is a very key piece of the way we work, and it’s always about starting with a very clear measurable picture of what your desired future is.
Joe: How do you keep that from not changing? I mean; you stick to it? You really think you have a crystal ball that it’s that clear?
Ari: It’s not a guess. It’s not a prediction. It’s what you want. See, most of the world is trying to figure out the right answer. We’re just saying this is our answer. If the question is, what is the best way to make the most money? This is not the answer.
The question is, what’s an organization I want to go to work in, and that we all want to go to work in the year 2020? This is the answer. That’s not going to change unless I have a personality transformation or something.
Joe: I mean you open up your heart, and this is really who I want to be.
Ari: That’s the point. Yes. A vision comes from your heart and your head. It’s not from the outside in.
Joe: What you’re saying here is it’s really true that aspiration of where you want to be, where you want to go.
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Ari: Yes. A big piece of that is having customers who love what we do. It’s not ignoring the customer, but it’s not saying, what does the market want and then what do we do? Now obviously the market has to want what we do, or one of the natural laws of business is we’re going to fail. It doesn’t mean you can ignore everything literally, but it’s really about what your dreams and your hopes are. We look at it as all one life, so our vision talks about having fun. We’re going to spend a lot of time at work. We want to have a good time while we’re doing it. It talks about learning. It’s really about creating the future that you want to be part of.
In this Customer Centric world of cooperation and co-creation how does a customer fit in? How do they become part of our future? I think the answer lies in Who Do You Want Your Customers to Become? If you create this vision of how your organization is going to change, your customer will also have to change. In the before mentioned book, author Michael Schrage describes a customer vision below;
The customer vision, however, is fundamentally different. A customer vision statement explicitly identifies the qualities and attributes the organization aspires to create in its customers. The overwhelming majority of companies, however, don’t possess or publish customer vision statements.
A “vision of the customer” perspective evokes the design and innovation sensibilities of the innovator’s ask. Take the broader view of what your innovations really ask customers to become. The larger question—the “macro-ask”—is, if the customer were a product or a service, what would its most valuable and appealing attributes be? What customer values, expectations, perceptions, or behaviors does your vision transform? How do your innovations enable your customers—or key customer segments to achieve this?
When we take the time to write two visions, I think it provides a great deal of insight. It challenges you to see how powerful your vision statements are and more importantly how compatible they are. Can you envision both to be equal?
Current State = Current Customers
Company Vision = Customer Vision
Future State = Future Customers
How Good is Your Math?
Related Podcast and Transcription: The Aroma of a Good Vision – Ari Weinzweig