Developing, maintaining and communicating a vision of required outcomes is an essential, yet poorly handled, component of planning and implementing projects and tasks. Usually to turn a vision into reality, the efforts and creativity of everyone involved needs to be applied at the right place and at the right time. Without a simple, easily applied method to manage visions, they are likely to be swamped by the many tasks we do each day.
What is a Vision?
A vision is certainly about seeing in your imagination, but it is not about the supernatural or prophetic apparitions. Vision is about imaginative insight, foresight and practical wisdom in planning. Visioning is about seeing your goal or aim (what you want to be achieved) and clearly identifying what success will look like. Once the outcome is clear, the next step is to expand your vision by developing a mental model of how you are going to realise your vision.
Fundamental link between Visioning and Doing
To realise your vision, you need to appreciate the link between a vision and what is to be done to achieve the vision. Unfortunately many planning methods start with a vision, then focus on what is being done with limited reference back to the vision. For success, the vision of what needs to be done and what is actually being done must be dynamically linked. The Visioning provides the target and broad path, and the Doing provides the planning, organising, controlling, reviewing, and leading, to ensure that what needs to be done is actually done.
Who needs a vision?
We all need a vision for what we are doing, so we can be motivated and use our creativity to achieve our best results. The key is that we react positively to a vision that fits our context and one that has some possibility of achievement. Therefore visions need to be broken down into a mosaic of sub-visions that when achieved contribute to a bigger vision.
Relationship of Vision to Plans
This relationship between why we do something and how we do it is critical to the success of most of the things we do. It is very hard to be motivated by the expected value for your effort if you donâ€™t know why you are doing something and how it fits into the bigger picture (vision). Unfortunately many plans focus on the who, what (output), when, where and how, without maintaining the why (outcome) the plan is being implemented. Without a vision you will probably achieve the desired output, but achieving the desired outcome is less likely.
Many planning methods encourage an output focus rather than an outcome focus. By adopting the shorter term output focus, many of the longer term benefits from an outcome focus are not realised. For example many organisations develop corporate or strategic plans, but do not develop effective visioning and planning links to the teams and individuals contributing to the outcomes.
Most visions require contributions and support from other people, consequently it is important to be able to clearly communicate your vision so other can share your vision. If we think about it, plans without a shared vision are drudgery. People implementing the plan are just doing what they have been told to do. Creativity is very difficult without having a vision of where you are going.
Most people use some form of work breakdown approach (such as used in project management) to breakdown a project or large task into more manageable parcels of work. However less people think about the need to breakdown the vision, so it is meaningful in the context of the task or job being done. Like a work breakdown, each vision needs to be integrated, so that achievement of lower level visions logically leads to the achievement of the vision at the next higher level.
Without a mental picture of what success will look like, people become very output oriented. If you ask someone why they are doing something, and the answer is "To finish the job or to achieve a particular output", then you know that the vision has been lost.
But how can we achieve a vision breakdown like the more familiar project or task breakdown? Fortunately the context provided by the work breakdown structure is identical to the context for the vision breakdown structure, because the work only makes sense in the context of the vision.
Making Visioning an Integral Part of Planning
There is usually little argument about the need for maintaining a vision as an integral part of planning, but how to do it is less clear. The key is to develop and maintain a clear link between why the work is being done and what is being done. Consequently each plan needs to have a goal or aim (outcome) and a series of objectives (outputs - detail what success will look like). Another important element that affects vision is the assumptions that the plan has been based on. These assumptions put bounds on the vision, so it is easier see to why a plan has been developed in a particular way.
Key Components of a Plan
A generic format (template) for a plan that integrates both vision and practical implementation requirements is:
- Goal (Aim) (Why - Outcome required)
- Assumptions (Why - Limitations)
- Objectives (What outputs are required)
- Individual and groups involved (including contact details) (Who)
- Who is responsible (Who)
- Actions by who (How)
- Resources (changes to current situation) (What)
- Costs (What)
- Start time (When)
- Complete by time (When)
The major benefits of a generic template are that planning is simplified (to filling in the boxes), and most importantly, all people involved understand the layout and can quickly grasp both the vision (shared) and what needs to be done.
Visioning is an integral component of planning that is needed for a plan to make sense. The vision and work breakdown structure must be tightly integrated, so a planâ€™s context and relevance is clear. A generic format (template) for a plan that is consistent at each breakdown level facilitates management, communication and understanding. An unbroken chain of linked visions is essential for visions to be turned into reality.
TASKey provides a simple, easily applied method to manage visioning and doing; so they work together. The generic template detailed above is used for all tasks/sub-tasks to integrate vision and work in context. The work breakdown structure links task/sub-task templates. Consequently the work and vision breakdown works together, so everyone contributing to a task or project understands the vision and what they need to do in terms of their own context. Plus an unbroken chain of linked visions is facilitated to ensure that everything being done contributes to each vision being turned into reality.
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