It Takes Vision

Do you remember watching the United States land on the moon? I was a kid sitting on the couch in the basement with my dad, staring at a grainy black-and-white television, as we watched history being made. It wasn’t until I became an adult that I understood this achievement all began with the vision of one man, John F. Kennedy, when he said, “I believe that this Nation should commit itself to achieve the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to earth.”

At the KyCPE Conference last week, one of the speakers, Leslie Blevins, Public Relations and Communications Manager for BTES (a 2017 Baldrige Award recipient in the small business category) talked about a recent change their organization had made to its vision.  She described how impressed their senior leaders were with the speech given by Larry Potterfield, CEO and Founder of MidwayUSA (a 2009 and 2015 Baldrige Award recipient also in the small business category), at the Quest for Excellence® Conference.  In his speech, Larry emphasized the importance of MidwayUSA’s vision, “Everything really starts with our Vision, which is: ‘To be the best-run business in America, and the most successful, most respected business in our industry, for the benefit of our Customers.’” What struck the BTES senior leaders was the phrase, for the benefit of our customers.  They went back and presented a change to their vision statement to their Board, which was unanimously approved. Their vision statement now reads, “To be the best electric, Internet, telephone and cable television provider for the benefit of our customers.”

Leslie said that this particular phrase added emphasis for how they decide what they are going to do, where to apply resources, and how to focus the entire organization. She said, “We realized that if we are doing anything that doesn’t ultimately benefit our customers, we need to stop!”

In our book, Leading the Malcolm Baldrige Way: How World-Class Leaders Align Their Organizations to Achieve Exceptional Results, almost every executive we interviewed spoke about the importance of connecting every single employee to their vision in a palpable way.  Dr. JoAnn Sternke (the retired superintendent of the Pewaukee School District, a Baldrige Award recipient in 2013) and Tommy Gonzalez (the former city manager of the City of Irving, a Baldrige Award recipient in 2012) both describe this as engaging employees’ heads (their minds), hands (the work), and heart (the connection with an organization’s bigger purpose).

We think there is great value in stepping back from time to time and asking yourselves these questions:

“What does our vision statement say about us as an organization to potential customers and employees?”

“What doesn’t it say that would also be important for them to know about us?”

“Does it set us apart from our competitors?”

“Is our vision statement future-focused?”

“Is it inspirational?”

“Is it clear that you expect excellence?”

And after you’ve asked yourselves these questions, we encourage you to ask your customers and employees the same questions for their feedback.  You might have a few surprises!

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