Big Red Car here. Been a bit lazy lately what with The Boss out of town and the house sitter running me ragged. I love the house sitter because he works me like a rented mule and keeps company with some very attractive young ladies. He has an outstanding vision of how things ought to be with a lot of pool time and a lot of cruising with his babes.
Speaking of “vision”, The Boss has been visiting with some of his CEO clients and the issue of vision — well, really, VISION — has been bubbling to the surface a lot. Seems like everyone is pondering the vision thang.
To refresh everyone’s memory the Vision for a company is a statement of its raison d’etre or the problem it is going to solve. It is the driver of the Mission, Strategy, Tactics, Objectives, Values and Company Culture continuum. It all begins with the Vision. The founder sets the Vision.
It would not be a huge stretch to imagine that the Big Googlers once said to each other: “Crush search!” Great Vision?
The founders of companies are the visionaries and they supply the Vision. They own it. They make it. They live it. The founders own the Vision. If you are a founder, make it so.
The Vision is a tool to be used to derive the other fundamental organizing building blocks we have enumerated above. But the Vision is the real deal and a flawed Vision is a fatal problem. You have to get this one right.
Any Vision, these days, has a shelf life of about 1-3 years. That does not mean it gets thrown in the trash and a new one is substituted but rather that the Vision must be reviewed and adapted to current conditions in a rapidly changing world. Sometimes no changes are necessary at all but let’s make sure that is because the Vision has been weighed and measured and found to be current and relevant.
As The Boss says: “Nobody has 20 years of experience these days, we all have one year of experience twenty times. Maybe six months of experience forty times?” The times are changing fast and the prudent founder or CEO is constantly taking a look at the Vision to ensure it is pertinent to the times.
Negotiating the Vision
In life we don’t get what we deserve, we get what we negotiate.
One of that things that young startup CEOs do is to recruit talent and make them the “Chief” something or other. Founders are too quick to anoint talent as “Chief”. Someone has to be the Indians.
In this manner, they invite real, perceived or faux equality at the founder’s table and may, at times, encourage folks to tinker with the Vision. The table is filled with CEOs, CFOs, CTOs, CMOs and Geronimo. [OK, Geronimo was a Chief but he was an Indian Chief. Sorry, Big Red Car getting a bit full of himself. Get it together, Big Red Car.]
While this is not fatal or tragic, it is unwise in the view of the Big Red Car.
WTF, Big Red Car, so how do you deal with it?
Well, the very uncool and pragmatic answer is that you “negotiate” and perhaps direct the impact of the Chiefs toward Mission, Strategy, Tactics, Objectives, Values (this is also the founder’s area of responsibility) and Company Culture.
As a CEO, you will constantly be making decisions and compromises and while you should never be prepared to compromise on the Vision, a word here or there will not be the end of the world. Do not whip your dress above your head, just a flash of ankle, dear.
Remember, Visions do not have the shelf life they did once upon a time. You will be tinkering with the Vision, so let someone else get a word or two — a word or two — in and get their buy in and fingerprints on the murder weapon.
Vision, failure to fit or embrace
Will there come times in which someone is so out of sync with the Vision — from indifference to open rebellion — that it makes sense to cut them loose?
The founders and CEOs job is to articulate and sell the Vision but at some instant in time if the Air Force wants to have ships, you are going to have to cut them loose. Vision is that important. Vision aligns the company’s efforts and the power of alignment is critical to success. Read: The Power of Alignment.
Writing it down
Almost every single CEO with whom The Boss works has required a bit of coaching and coaxing to get their Vision into writing. This is perfectly normal.
There are several things at work here:
1. It’s all in the CEO’s head. Perfectly normal. OK, let’s get it out.
2. The CEO has not yet perfected it in words. Thoughts, yes. Words, no. Perfectly normal. She has the idea, just not the perfect words. Yet. OK, let’s get it out and see what it looks like on paper and consult a few folks but let’s get it on paper.
3. The CEO is reticent or shy about it and is reluctant to expose it to critical view of others. OK, let’s get over that and get it on paper.
4. The Vision is in a state of flux and changing slightly. So what, get it out and get it on paper. Multiple versions if necessary.
If you cannot articulate your Vision, if you do not have it written down, if you cannot proselytize that Vision — then, you do not have a real Vision. That Vision is necessary to get to the Mission, etc. It is the basic building block of the company and it is the critical injection of CEO/founder DNA which breathes life into the product or company.
Good news? Once you start writing it down, it’s easy as Hell and it all falls into place. The Boss has seen CEOs arrive at simply brilliant Visions in just an hour or so of work. It is the beginning of things that is so important.
But, hey, what the Hell do I know anyway? I’m just a Big Red Car. Be kind to yourselves. You deserve it. Call an old friend and buy him/her a cheeseburger with extra cheese and chat like the old days. You’re that kind of friend.