A CEO’s new vision often blurs into an indistinct image once the initial blitz is over. To ensure that the vision is more than just a daydream, companies should follow a five-phase model that some organizations have used successfully to avoid disaster or complacency.
Just a few decades ago, organizations could stay the course with one strategy for a period of years. The idea that a new vision would be needed, perhaps with some frequency, would have been treated with mild amusement, if not outright derision. But competitive realities have forced executives to rethink what their companies are doing, and how they are doing it, over time. Automakers see profitability and market share evaporating. Media companies face the hostile world of disruptive technology. Financial institutions discover that a one-country focus is a path to extinction. In such conditions, bold visions are called for — and will be called for again, probably sooner than any executive would like.
The problem is the gap between inspiration and implementation. CEOs often get off to a rousing start, energizing top managers by presenting a bold new vision at a lavish off-site meeting. The excitement, however, often dies down within a few months, and the vision blurs into an indistinct image. Eventually, it fades from sight completely, and the organization returns to its previous ways.
To find out why this gap between inspiration and implementation is so common, the authors conducted research on about 40 global companies. In this article, they explain several common reasons for the derailment of bold visions such as failure to focus, failure to engage the workforce and neglecting the skills and talents of the organization. They go on to offer a five-stage framework that executives can use to ensure that their visions become more than just pipe dreams. Examples of companies that have successfully followed this path — including Deutsche Bank, the BBC, Nissan, Mattel and Starbucks — are drawn on both to illustrate the challenges and to provide guidance to those who want to turn bold visions into reality.