How to formulate an appealing vision

By Christian Nyvang Qvick, Senior Consultant, LEAD

Why should your organization have an appealing vision? What exactly is a vision? And what is important when it comes to successfully formulating a vision that employees understand and are motivated by? Here's a guide on how to formulate your vision - supported by concrete examples.

Vision leadership is a form of leadership where you articulate, communicate and sustain a vision for your organization. Research suggests, for example, that vision leadership can lead to your employees being more motivated, more engaged in their work, seeing their work as meaningful, wanting to stay in your organization and performing better.

A vision: Your organization's picture of the desirable, long-term future

As a leader, you have a number of good reasons to engage in vision management. But by its very nature, it's difficult to lead with vision if you don't have a vision for your organization that you can lead from. A vision is your organization's picture of a desirable, long-term future.

This understanding of a vision includes three key points of attention that relate to the words "desirable", "future" and "image". Each of these are important to keep in mind before you - either alone or in collaboration with your employees, board or others - start formulating the vision for your organization. Below we look at each of them.

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The vision must be desirable

Take a look at the two visions below for two fictional cancer hospitals.

  1. We want to be one of the best workplaces in the country. Therefore, we strive to create a good working environment with a high level of well-being and good opportunities for competence development for the hospital's employees, so that we can recruit new and retain current employees.
  2. We want to be the hospital in Denmark that provides the best cancer treatment. And we want to ensure that our patients never experience a lack of coherence in their treatment, but rather feel supported during a coherent treatment process.

Do you notice what is the main difference between the visions? The first vision is about the hospital and its employees through a focus on work environment, well-being, competence development, recruitment and retention. The second vision is about the patients for whom the hospital should make a difference.

This distinction is key because it relates to the word 'desirable', which is part of the understanding of a vision. Desirability implies that something is worth striving for. In other words, it is worthy of being desired. A key characteristic of a vision is that a vision describes a future worth striving for.

Because public organizations are politically driven, they must all - in one way or another - contribute to creating value for citizens and society. Think of a cancer hospital that strives to provide the best possible cancer treatment for patients.

It's a future worth striving for. A good working environment, high well-being, good opportunities for skills development or similar internal conditions in the workplace may also be important, but it is not as much something worth striving for as an ultimate goal for the organization. The above is backed up by a new study that shows that employees are only motivated by a vision if it is about making a difference for citizens and society.

The first thing to remember when formulating the vision for your organization is that it should be about the people you want your organization to make a difference for.

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