The Importance of Visioning

Who remembers Only Fools and Horses, the BBC sitcom in which the dodgy dealer and market trader Del Boy Trotter goes from one bungled venture to another? Del Boy’s regular catchphrase is, “This time next year, we’ll be millionaires”.

Of course, Del Boy is a dreamer. None of his business ventures, from cleaning chandeliers, to Peckham Spring Mineral Water (from a burst water pipe) or selling off second-hand sex dolls filled with hydrogen instead of compressed air, would ever get the millions he craved. When he did get the money, it was from the sale of an antique watch, which was hidden away in the back of his lock up. Even then Trotter lost his millions through bad investment.

Del Boy Trotter, like his ITV counterpart, Arthur Daly of Minder, are comic stereotypes. Like Walker the spiv in Dad’s Army, they are caricatures of a certain type of dodgy businessman.

However, all too often, I see real life examples of people who believe they can get rich quick; whether as, in my old role in Trading Standards, they are the victims (or even the perpetrators) of scams, or in my current role, they are ‘Dragons Den’ style entrepreneurs who believe they have developed a unique new product or service which is going to change the world.

I have often criticised such individuals in this blog, both real and fictional.  They are dreamers who lack SMART objectives; they are those who march on without doing the necessary market research; or they are people who assume every consumer will immediately share their individual beliefs attitudes and wants.

That said there is a place for aspiration and dreams in the world of commerce; but those aspirations must be properly channelled.

We have previously discussed the creation of mission statements and the setting of business objectives in this blog.  These are critical to the development of successful business and marketing plans.

Once you have created your business mission statement, it is critical that it is communicated to stakeholders including your employees. A mission statement is designed to provide a sense of vision and direction within your business over the longer-term.

A mission statement is of little value if your internal stakeholders are unaware of it. A mission statement should also be a living document capable of adaptation to matching external environmental change.

A mission statement should:

  •  Highlight core organisational values
  •  Be specific, not woolly or general
  •  Be realistic and not over-optimistic
  •  Rooted in organisational values so it properly reflects reality capabilities and competences

Otherwise the mission statement is just empty rhetoric.

The development of a mission statement leads to the concept of Visioning. Senior managers, heads of strategic business units and brand managers must think, in detail about what they are trying to create.  This means developing a vivid picture, a dream, of where the organisation should be in three to five years.

So a clear understanding is needed of how the trading environment might change and how organisational capabilities might change.

The visioning process should be detailed and not broad in scope. Managers must think carefully about:

  • The future size of the organisation
  • Corporate and brand values
  • The nature of your customer base and the segments you serve
  • How consumers should interact with the organisation and brand
  • How consumers should interact with the brand
  • The geographic scope of the organisation
  • Market position and corporate stance
  • Links with other organisations

Visioning does not just include a corporate of brand vision.  It can include visionary market insights and product concepts.

An organisational vision cannot be developed in isolation from the organisation’s trading environment.  It requires clarity of both insight and thinking. It must be constrained by corporate values.

The development of corporate visions has led to the growth of internal marketing; training motivation and communication designed to ensure the commitment of stakeholders to that mission.

A corporate vision is made up of ‘soft’ and ‘hard factors.

Hard factors include corporate objectives and strategies, systems of work, critical metrics, etc.

Soft factors include corporate values, priorities and styles of operating. It includes expected behaviours and attitudes.

These soft and hard factors drive performance.  the corporate vision should also inspire  the commitment to the organisation and leadership principles.

A corporate vision leads to value through innovation and develops five inspiring commitments:

  1. Market change represents opportunity
  2. Added value is competitive advantage
  3. Innovation in everything is the challenge
  4. Waste is the enemy
  5. A distinctive character is strength.

Leadership principles include:

  1. Realising the vision is a prime objective
  2. Improvement is an ambition
  3. Teamwork is the task
  4. Creativity is character
  5. The goal is to deliver results.

There are many examples of where a vison has been badly presented.

John Niven, the author and former record company A and R man, recalls one such instance.  When working for one of the UK’s larger independent record labels, he was approached by two entrepreneurs looking for investment in their firm.  the entrepreneurs pitched their belief that in future, people wouldn’t buy records. Rather than buying an LP with ten songs, consumers would buy music track by track. the entrepreneurs were laughed out of the office.  Their vision seemed as ludicrous as Del Boy’s ‘one day we’ll be millionaires’.  The entrepreneurs went on to create Spotify.