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Vision & Values: Two powerful leadership tools.

By Ruth Tearle

Vision and values are two of the most powerful leadership tools used by new CEO's, new leaders, or anyone involved in transforming an organization or rebuilding a department.

Values and vision provide employees with a clear focus.

  • Values provides the trust and appropriate behaviours needed for organizational and team success.
  • Vision provides direction and a sense of purpose.

In terms of the 20/80 principle, which says that 20% of leadership tasks account for 80% of leadership results, vision are values are the most effective tools a leader can use to transform an organization or team. Visions and values can also be used to transform teams operating at any level inside an organization and to help individuals focus on what is important for future success.

What is a vision?

A vision is a clear, comprehensive ‘photograph’ of an organization at some point in the future. It provides direction because it describes what the organization needs to be like, to be successful within the future.

A vision describes the WHAT. i.e. what you are trying to achieve in the future. It is the end result of a strategic planning process.

Benefits of a vision

When people build a dream/vision together in a participative way, they achieve the following benefits:

  • A better understanding of the future environment within which they will be operating.
  • A better understanding of what the organization must be like in the future, to be successful within that environment.
  • A common goal or dream which is a tool for building team work and resolving conflict.
  • A clearer focus on the few things that really matter. This prevents an organization from wasting precious time and resources trying to do too much.
  • A tool for working out what must change in the future. In building a vision, an organization takes two ‘photographs’. The internal analysis provides a picture of the organization as it is today. The vision provides a 'photograph' of the ideal organization of the future. The gap between the two ‘photographs’ provides guidance on what must be changed in the organization.
  • In any organization undergoing major change, a vision is the most important starting point for any change process.

  • Many organizations find themselves confused and stressed out by too many changes. Government legislation, increased global competition, adapting new technologies, chasing new markets, pressures to reduce costs, and lean manufacturing are just a few of the many changes being demanded from organizations. Organizations often 'burn out' or lose focus by trying to change too much at once. A carefully designed visioning process, can help the organization to integrate all their change efforts into one seemingly simple change process.
  • A comprehensive vision, helps an organization to simplify its decision making. Every decision is simply tested against the vision. This in turn allows leaders to decentralize decision making with greater confidence. A common vision ensures that everyone makes decisions based on a common direction.
  • A vision provides a tool for measuring progress. It provides both the 'before and after photograph' of the organization. In addition, it provides a logical framework within which divisions and departments can set their goals.
  • A common vision provides a tool for preventing conflict that often occurs between different functional areas, different organizations and different hierarchical levels. The way in which the vision is built, the knowledge gained through the process, and the end product, contribute to the solving of conflict.
  • Building a vision offers a unique approach to both transformation and empowerment. Those involved in the process of building a vision, learn about business, society, the future, change, and themselves in a way that develops not only teams, but also helps individuals to grow.
  • While this article deals with visions on an organizational level, visions are often used as an OD intervention at a team and an individual level.
If you have already developed a vision, and now want to implement it, look at our case study on implementing strategy.

valueshappyWhat are values

Values describe the HOW. i.e. how will we behave towards one another, and towards our stakeholders in the way in which we achieve our goals.

Values are the starting point of any cultural change programme.

Values explain what is important in people's or organizations lives.

When we understand our own values, and those of others around us, we find it easier to:

  • Understand each other's behaviour.
  • Tolerate differences between one another.
  • Trust one another.

Benefits of values

When teams or organizations build a common set of values, they achieve benefits such as:

Sharing values in a group, is an powerful way of building an effective team.
  • Resolving conflict.
  • Building trust.
  • Building a code of conduct that can be used to control team behaviour.

If the leaders of the organisation or team behave consistently in line with the new code of conduct, they will be amazed by the trust and energy they release amongst their followers.

Values can transform an organization's culture.

One way to change an organization's culture is to begin by developing a new set of organizational values.

Then the organization communicates, rolls out or cascades these values to every team and every employee throughout the organization.

If the values roll-out process is planned carefully, it can be used as a powerful way to change the behaviors and habits of every employee and manager, which in turn can transform an organizational culture.

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