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Communicating a vision statement for transformation
Insights to action
When leading a transformation effort you hold a vision in your mind, talk about it frequently, and you’ve even created a Vision Statement. But, are you communicating a vision that can effectively move your organization forward? For government leaders steering a valuable transformation, developing a vision statement and communicating the vision effectively is critical. The leadership’s vision statement should be clear, concrete, compelling, and connected for individuals throughout the organization.
- Clear communication in leadership
- Concretely communicating vision
- Communicating vision in a compelling way
- Communicate the vision to connect with past and present
- Communicating vision
Clear communication in leadership
Government language may not be your friend when communicating vision. While “world class,” “seamless,” and “agile” may be accurate, they are over-used and ambiguous, causing listeners to tune out. Also, members of the leadership team can each attach their own meaning to the same term, so it’s necessary to move beyond labels. We understand complex ideas better as stories than as buzzwords. Vision statements alone won’t communicate a clear, well-understood vision. People need to understand how the new organization will differ from old: “today, when A happens, we do B, tomorrow we will do Y.” Increasingly, leaders turn to video to clearly communicate a future vision.
Concretely communicating vision
Effectively communicated visions enable employees to understand how their work world will change. This requires clarity and answering leading questions in everyone’s mind: “What am I going to be asked to do?” “Who am I going to be working with?” and, of significant importance to them, “How will my life change?” Members of the organization need some level of comfort with these questions to get them to support a new path. Making the vision concrete will require the communication be tailored to different stakeholder groups, including the leadership team. Leaders need to help stakeholders understand the magnitude and direction of the change in order for them to meaningfully commit to its success.
Communicating vision in a compelling way
A future that appeals to people on an emotional level can provide the required extra focus and motivation. People resist change because while the cost of extra effort and energy are clear, the benefits are vague. Government agencies may have an advantage here because success in transforming an organization often literally means the world will be a better place. Benefits to the individual can be part of the story, but the benefits to society and agency customers may be more important to communicate.
Communicate the vision to connect with past and present
We understand the new world through the lens of the old. There is a bias to the status quo and nostalgia for the past. Because leaders are focused on the change, they often give little attention to the organization’s processes, people, and culture that will remain the same. The leader’s clear message that “while much is changing, certain core principles, policies, activities etc. will remain the same” goes a long way. It not only gives some guiderails for moving forward, but also gives respect to the past, and the organization member’s contributions.
A great vision will be clear, concrete, compelling, and connected. This is an important goal, and a high bar. Leaders should invest time to make their vision as effective as possible, especially in government. Discussions in business about transformation efforts invariably talk about the “burning platform” where the marketplace or investors have created a do-or-die situation. Government entities rarely have a burning platform for leaders to leverage. Consequently, a strong focus on communication in leadership enables government executives to craft a top-notch vision and build an enthusiastic workforce.
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