aspects of direction or goal.
Vision provides guidance to an organisation by articulating what it wishes to attain. It serves as “a signpost pointing the way for all who need to understand what the organisation is and where it intends to go” (Nanus, 1992). By providing a picture, vision not only describes an organisation s direction or goal, but also the means of accomplishing it. It guides the work of the organisation. Seeley (1992) describes vision as a “goal-oriented mental construct that guides people’s behaviour.” Vision is a picture of the future for which people are willing to work.
However, vision is more than an image of the future. It has a compelling aspect that serves to inspire, motivate, and engage people. Vision has been described by Manasse (1986) as “the force which moulds meaning for the people of an organisation.” It is a force that provides meaning and purpose to the work of an organisation. Vision is a compelling picture of the future that inspires commitment. It answers the questions: Who is involved? What do they plan to accomplish? Why are they doing this? Vision therefore does more than provide a picture of a desired future; it encourages people to work, to strive for its attainment. For public sector leaders who implement change in the product or service they deliver, vision is “a hunger to see improvement” (Pejza, 1985).
As important as it is to know what vision is, it is also important to know what vision is not. Nanus (1992) states that vision is not “a prophecy, a mission, factual, true or false, static, or a constraint on actions.” Fullan (1992) warns against visions that blind and states that there is a tendency for “overattachment to particular philosophies or innovations.”
To assist leaders in developing an appropriate vision, Nanus (1992) maintains
that the “right vision” has five characteristics:
? attracts commitment and energises people,
? creates meaning in workers’ lives,
? establishes a standard of excellence,
? transcends the status quo.
Other descriptions of vision provide more explicit information especially pertinent to public sector leaders. Seeley (1992) defines two types of vision, both related to Cuban’s (1988) concepts of first and second order changes. Using the construct of first order changes, those that deal with improvements, Seeley asserts that these changes are connected to first order vision or program vision. An example of a change requiring program vision is an agency’s adoption of a new program.
Second order changes are those that require restructuring or a reconceptualisation of an organisation s roles, rules, relationships, and responsibilities. Seeley (1992) asserts that such second order changes require system vision. “The leader has to visualise not just how a new program or practice would work, but how whole new sets of expectations, relationships, accountability structures, etc., would fit together into a coherent whole” (Seeley, 1992).
An example of a change requiring system vision is the restructuring of three depots into two. Some of the major changes related to this vision are rethinking the types and number of vehicles to be housed, staff needs, accommodating extra staff activities. The distinction between program and system vision provided by Seeley extends our understanding of vision and its role in changing programs because the vision reflects the type of program that is being implemented.
In addition to providing a picture of the future, a vision inspires people to work to make it come true. It motivates people to join the campaign to realise the desired vision. A leader’s efforts to develop a shared vision have been described as “bonding” by Sergiovanni (1990): leader and followers with a shared set of values and commitment “that bond them together in a common cause” in order to meet a common goal. “A vision is little more than an empty dream until it is widely shared and accepted” (Nanus, 1992).
Many leaders begin with a personal vision realising that it ultimately will be implemented by others in the organisation. Whether the vision begins with a leader’s personal concept or a group’s consensual image of a programs picture of the future, it is important that there be a sense of ownership of the vision. “Studies indicate that it is the presence of this personal vision on the part of a leader, shared with members of the organisation, that may differentiate true leaders from mere managers” (Manasse, 1986,).
A leader’s vision needs to be shared by those who will be involved in its realisation. The shared vision becomes a “shared covenant that bonds together leader and follower in a moral commitment” (Sergiovanni, 1990). ” The vision of a program, developed collaboratively or initiated by the leader and agreed to by the followers, becomes the common ground, the shared vision that compels all involved to realise the vision. “Vision comes alive only when it is shared” (Westley & Mintzberg, 1989).
ADMINISTRATORS AND VISION
“All leaders have the capacity to create a compelling vision, one that takes people to a new place, and the ability to translate that vision into reality” (Bennis, 1990). Current leadership literature frequently characterises the leader as the vision holder, the keeper of the dream, or the person who has a vision of the organisation s purpose. Bennis (1990) writes that leaders “manage the dream.” This aspect of leadership has been frequently called visionary leadership. According to Westley and Mintzberg (1989), visionary leadership is dynamic and involves a three stage continuum:
? an image of the desired future for the organisation (vision) is
? communicated (shared), which serves to
? “empower those followers so that they can enact the vision.”
DEVELOPING A SHARED VISION
There are various approaches that have been suggested for the actual development of a shared vision that then is expressed in a vision statement (Blokker, 1989; Nanus, 1992). Leaders will undoubtedly adjust the steps listed below to their unique situation since there is a different focus when applying the steps at the program or organisational level. Four steps facilitate the conceptualisation of vision and lead to its becoming a vision statement.
1. Know your organisation. During the initial phase of formulating a vision, it is important to learn everything about the organisation as it currently exists. This corresponds to Manasse’s concept of organisational vision, “a comprehensive picture of the existing system within its environment.” She suggests that organisational vision involves a systems perspective to determine the components of an organisation or program and how they are interrelated.
Nanus (1992) suggests that “the basic nature” of an organisation can be defined by determining its present purpose and its value to society. Knowing what a program or workplace is about and the reason for its existence is the first step in developing a vision statement. Knowing the collective understanding of an organisation is the second step and includes the participation of constituencies.
2. Involve critical individuals. The individuals or groups identified as constituencies include those that are the most critical, both inside and outside, the organisation. These `critical’ individuals can be those who are essential, such as a representative of a major business in the community and those people who tend to judge severely, such as the consistently vocal parent. Consider the major expectations or interests of these critical constituents as well as any threats or opportunities that may originate from these groups or individuals. Leaders should involve individuals such as business leaders, and other community members.
The involvement of critical individuals often presents challenges to the development of a shared vision. Rogus (1990) suggests having the participants write their ideas before a meeting; identify consensus statements first and then grapple with non-consensus statements at the meeting. Remember that consensus is the absence of serious disagreement, not total agreement with everything. Aside from describing the organisation and discussing its purpose, the group participates in discussing the factors that could impact the community needs.
3. Explore the possibilities. Possible major changes in the economical, social, political, and technological arenas that will impact a program or organisation should be explored. Specific questions that Leaders should consider are:
? What are possible future trends of clients’ needs?
? What are possible future trends in communities’ needs or requirements that will impact our programs?
? What are possible future expectations or requirements of our political leaders from employee s or organisations?
? What possible changes in social, economic, political, or technical areas will impact our organisation?
literature concerning future trends. Another strategy that can assist
participants to speculate about the future is to view and discuss videotapes
that have been produced by futurists.
4. Put it in writing. The final step is writing a clear and concise vision
statement. This step uses all the information gathered and discussed, the
descriptions of the program or organisation, as well as the predictions of future
developments and trends that will impact a program or organisation.
This final step is the result of much discussion by the people involved and aside from +distilling’ the issues discussed, it focuses the group’s attention to what they agreed upon and their united vision for their program or organisation. This vision then is committed to paper.
These four steps facilitate a collaborative development of a shared vision and written vision statement. Briefly these steps are:
1. Know your organisation —
Clarify the nature and purpose
2. Involve critical individuals —
Include those affected
3. Explore the possibilities —
Consider possible futures
4. Put it in writing —
Vision is committed to paper.
The process of developing a vision and writing a vision statement can be a
time consuming but rewarding experience. All changes began with a mental
picture, a vision, of that change, whether that of one person or the
collective image of the future. “Vision is not a luxury but a necessity;
Leaders are being challenged to meet the present needs of all stakeholders as well as preparing the workplace for the 21st century. They must meet this challenge first with a vision, a picture of the future for which all stakeholders are willing to work. They ensure its attainment by continuously collaborating with others to develop a shared vision. When Leaders invest time and energy in developing a vision and preparing a written statement reflecting it, they provide an inspiring image of the future for themselves, their colleagues, constituents, and most importantly, their employee s.
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