Four reasons why establishing a consistent corporate vision can be hard

Why is it so difficult to establish, understand and take advantage of your corporate vision? Here’s why

1. Because most executives are more action-oriented than thought-oriented
It may be because managers are under an obligation to present attractive quarterly results for investors, but it’s common to meet executives telling you that they “can’t allow themselves” to think about theory. They’ll say what really matters is knowing the business, knowing where the margin is, getting a return on capital and implementing plans as approved.

2. Because an incoming chief executive usually wants to distinguish himself from an outgoing chief executive
It’s human nature for someone who has just arrived to want to leave their own mark. And it’s also human – although not very wise – to think that the “past is now”. Many incoming chief executives decide to reinvent the corporate vision without realizing that a vision is neither a five-year strategic plan nor a new product line. Some chief executives think that they are above the institution they’re running – and that they are the institution.

3. Because being consistent with the vision also means knowing how to say ‘no’
A lot of chief executives think that a clearly defined vision is a restriction, and may carry with it a competitive disadvantage because carrying out the vision exactly may preclude new and available sources of income.

4. Because the vision is not being correctly communicated downstream
The outcome of all this means that establishing a vision is not only an exercise in in-house communications, but above all it means you must ensure that the decision-making process and the in-house filters which guarantee consistency between what is said and what is done are clear.

All these reasons make it very difficult to maintain consistency with the corporate vision. And although it may appear naïve, all executives – before they act – should ask themselves three simple questions:

• Why does my company exist?
• How can we make the vision work?
• What can it offer our customers?

These three simple questions would at least help establish the vision… without forcing reluctant, time-poor executives to “think about theory”.