Zingerman’s Delicatessan in Ann Arbor, Michigan grew from a small enterprise started in 1982 into Zingerman’s Community of Businesses—eight different businesses (including a mail order company and a business consultancy), with 17 managing partners, 500 employees, and revenue of $37 million a year in thirty years. Founder Ari Weinzweig explains how visioning—creating a picture of what success will be at a particular time in the future—helped take his company to where it is today.
Because visioning can be used for just about anything, it's important to start by being clear about what you're working on. Is it a vision for your organization overall? Or just for a particular piece? For today's shift? Or your retirement? We do visions for all of the above and everything in between.
How far out should you look? There's no right answer, but as a general principle, visioning works best if you go far out enough to get beyond present-day problems but not so far out that you have no sense at all of actually getting there. We have a long-term organizational vision that's set in 2020. Most organizational visions will probably be set somewhere from two to 10 years out—but five is a typical place to start.
Throw down a list of past positive achievements. You might include specific contributions that you or your colleagues have made to past successes, or skills, techniques, and resources that could be assets in achieving your vision. Anything good that comes to mind is fine. It shouldn't take more than 10 minutes. The idea is just to create a base of positive energy and high-quality experiences on which you can build for future success. The more people focus on the positives, the more likely you are to attain the greatness you envision.
Writing a vision is hugely important. Before you start writing, here are a few technical tips. If you follow them, the work will be way better:
· Put something wild out there. Get past the 59 reasons why it won't work.
· Put down what pours out, not what other people want to see.
· Write as if your vision has already happened.
· Keep writing for 15 to 30 minutes, regardless of how silly you sound.
· Build your passions into what you write. Don't write a vision that you aren't a part of.
When you're ready to revise, read your draft through from start to finish. Don't erase anything. You'll have plenty of opportunity to edit the content and the language. As you read through, keep in the back of your mind: Does this sound inspiring? Do I get excited when I'm reading it? Stay away from vague statements like "We're busier than ever"; instead, use real sales numbers that mean something. What are the key financial numbers that define success for you? Sales levels? Salary? Savings? Status?
If you want, you can take this second draft and make additional adjustments. But at some point, you had better get your butt in gear and move on to Step 7. Note that there is no 6D. If there were, the D would stand for Done. More than four drafts, and I think you're headed down the long and unrewarding road of "I've been working on a vision for the past few years, but I still don't have it finished."
This is where you let the cat out of the bag and get input from people you trust and respect. Whom should you show it to? Folks who have experience, insight, and expertise relevant to your vision. Inevitably, some of these advisers will shift away from talking about the vision into a discussion of the action steps that will have to be in a strategic plan. Just listen carefully, and take notes—some of those ideas might come in handy later.
Finally, it's time to share the vision with everyone who will be involved in implementing it. When you roll out your vision to the bigger group, it's inevitable that people will ask questions about how you intend to achieve the vision. They're asking you about the how. The vision, however, is the what. It's totally fine if you don't know how you're going to get there. Later, you will figure out the how.