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"Without vision, a nation will perish" This is as true in business as it is with a nation. Many organizations doomed because of their leaders didn't have the vision except meagre traditions. Organisations cannot prosper and grow by maintaining statues quo. They have to have a long term vision for growth. Many organisations were diminished because they were more interested to keeping things the way they have always been. These kinds of organisations are driven by the popular saying, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." However the visionary leaders see things differently. Visionary leaders are driven by a belief keeping pace with time. If time is changing, organisation needs to readjust according to changes in environment. Prosperous organisations leaders are keeping rhythm with the competitive world in which they live. A visionary leader believes that, "If it ain't broke, you're not looking hard enough." Visionary leaders have a sense of feeling that there is always room for improvement. They believe in imperfection hence they say that no one has ever done anything so well that it cannot be done better.
A vision provides direction, purpose and unique identity to organisations. Its provide motivation to its workforce to achieve its goal. It's give an identity and meaningful existence to the organisations. Vision facilitates a platform for developing organisational standards and structuring future perspective to its objective.
A vision has to be in line with expectation of the organisation and in the interest of its stakeholders. Where no common vision is implemented, individual will pursue their own vision. This will make organisation less sensible to changes in future and more directionless in strategy. A share vision to an organisation is very important. It provides long term strategic direction to the organisation. A well defined vision clarifies the direction of changes and ensures everything is done as per strategy. All the activities are implemented as per vision process including R&D, acquisition, recruitment etc. A share vision goes in right direction however it may be unsuitable to few people initially. A broad vision provides linkage between individual actions and organisational goals.
Vision is not to be preserved at top level management only; it should be advertised and conveyed across the board. The specific intent may vary at departmental level but overall vision is to provide a long term sustainable direction to the organisation. The top level management formulate the vision, middle level translate into organisation and lower level it transformed into short term task or performance.
To be effective a vision should have mission. As per Deetz et al. (2000:73), "Visioning is essential to creating the norms, mission, and the rules of an organisation, components that make up the organisation's formally espoused goals......... Vision (is) an organisational ideal (Roger Gill, 2006)
The Good Vision
A vision is a statement of the aspirations or desired future of a group, organisation or nation. An effective leader always communicates the most appropriate visions of the future. A clear concise and desirable vision is more realistic rather than a vague and unrealistic vision. A vision is the simplest statement in organisation. It's all about success. People working in the organisation must know what the vision is and how to achieve. A good vision can be challenging, effective and inspiring. An organisation with vision has more growth chance than an organisation without it. The clarity and desirability is the very important aspect of the vision. Communicating vision in dramatic way is very important. A leader of the organisation must show the vision in his action and behaviour. A well communicated vision has more chance of success compare to an ill-communicated vision. Vision should have explicit ethical or moral component to them. They should carry the high moral values in them. A vision will be the best vision where every employee of the organisation takes as its own personal vision.
According to Kotter (1997b), a good vision has six characteristics. They are as follows.
However Burt Nanus (1992), define vision as a realistic, credible, attractive future for an organisation.
Realistic: Good organisational vision should be based on realistic approach and shall be meaningful. If an organisations working in niche market should not aim to overtake a major player in industry. This vision is not realistic. However TATA Steel's vision to be No. 2 in steel making industry was a realistic though it was a small player in 2005 before acquiring Corus.
Credible: Vision should have credibility in itself. It should not be irrelevant. A credible vision is very important to its employees. It's the organisation's employee makes vision become reality. If they find it is not credible it will become unachievable and un-meaningful. It will be derailed from track. The main purpose of the good vision is to inspire its employees to achieve a level of excellence and provide right direction. A bad vision will be remains unaccomplished.
Attractive: A vision should be attractive to its employees. This is reflected by several organisational vision strategies such as Google, Apple and Tata Steel. Everyone wants to be part of a successful organisation which has attractive vision built in its culture and strategy. A good vision motivates its members to make it reality.
Future: A vision is the roadmap for today and tomorrows. Hence it should have future strategy to realise its vision into reality. A leadership role is very important in this respect. This happened in case of Apple. Once Apple was on the brink of extinction, however Steve Jobs had shown future to Apple employees how to become most successful company leaving behind Microsoft. An organisational vision should have inbuilt future in its strategy.
According to Gregory et al. (2000), "The most powerful visions are clear about the direction and objectives and proactive in approach, bur deliberately vague about the means - leaving room for flexibility in developing viable strategic options and solving complex problems". Vision should be communicated to all who are related to organisations and not only to employees.
While creating the vision, the following key aspects should be considered. There are the purpose of vision, driving force behind vision, core values of the vision, achievement by vision, accomplishment by vision and change due to vision.
A strategic leadership develop visions which consist of continuity in its statement. The vision can be created for an organisation once you are fully involved with that organisation. A good leader involves everyone while creating vision for organisation. If leadership want to create a successful vision then they need to develop a shared vision with its key people.
It needs to involve people within organisation and outside organisation that may impact the organisation future. While creating vision leadership should have open mind to ideas from every nook and corner. While formulating vision ideas should come from every level. These are the point's needs to consider while creating vision for any organisation.
Make full understanding about the organisation. An in-depth study and knowledge required to create vision for any organisation. It must be inclusive vision which includes employees, stakeholders and society.
While creating vision asses the direction and momentum of the organisation. A vision audit should be conducted on organisation's structure, process, personnel's, management, support system and its current direction.
The vision should focus to the key aspects of the strategy. It must address any critical issue may come during implementation process.
Set the organisation's context related to vision. Categorise any future development may affect the vision. List the expectation from each activity. Determine which of the activity most likely to occur. Finally determine the probability of occurrence of each activity.
A detailed scenario planning will provide full insight to the vision. It may provide possible outcomes of the vision.
While creating a vision an alternative vision should also be in place. There may be several directions to an organisation may be in future. Evaluate all the visions with all factors and scenarios.
Choose a best possible vision which suits to organisation.
As Greenleaf (1991) says "Not much happens without a dream. And for something great to happen, there must be a big dream. Behind every great achievement is a dreamer of great dreams. Much more than a dreamer is required to bring it to reality, but the dream must be there first".
An effective leader ensures that people understand and are committed to vision through-out the organisation. Visions provide a frame of reference for both leaders and followers for the strategic direction of the organisation. They motivate their follower throughout the process by their visionary direction. The vision is more powerful than the charisma to the employees of the organisation. The implementation process of the vision is very crucial stage in success of a vision. Effective leadership communicate vision effectively. The vision should give a clear focus to direction.
Once vision has been created, it shall be communicated to its employees and stakeholders. This is the final step in successful vision process. James O'Toole, author of Leadership from A to Z , describes this communication in broad terms, "The task of leadership is to communicate clearly and repeatedly the organization's visionâ€¦all with the intent of helping every person involved understand what work needs to be does and why, and what part the individual plays in the overall effort." The vision can be communicated through internal memos, emails, presentations, meetings, group tasks etc. The vision should be always reminding its employees and stakeholders to its purpose and goals.
The vision can be made an integral part of performance review and objective setting of any projects or department. This may work as a stimulator to its member to achieving it and make this reality. Creating the vision is much easier however communication the vision to lower rank of organisation is most challenging task. However a well organised and well developed vision can be communicated very well.
A key role of leadership is to communicate the vision to all the organization's stakeholders, particularly those inside the organization. The vision needs to be well articulated so that it can be easily understood.
The importance of communicating the vision is clear. You have got to know where you are going, to be able to state it clearly and concisely - you have to care about it passionately. That all adds up to vision, the concise statement/picture of where the organisation and its people are heading, and why they should be proud of it....The issue here... is not...the substance of the vision, but the importance of having one, per se, and the importance of communicating it consistently and with fervor (Peters and Austin, 1985:284).
The vision must point the way forward. It must be sustainable. It must be exciting and fire the imagination. It must challenge people to participate in pursuing it. Timing in communicating a vision of the essence in leadership. A premature vision may be rejected because it leaves too many question unanswered. The leader's task never be accomplished until people own the vision themselves.
Tata Group's Vision and Ratan Tata as a Leader: Classic Example
Tata Group Vision:
"We aspire to be the global steel industry benchmark for
Value Creation and Corporate Citizenship."
Tata Steel currently is a major player in global steel industry. In year 2005, Tata Steel operation was mainly focused in Indian subcontinent and revenue generated was close to US$ 5.0 billion only. However their vision to expand their operations globally proved very successful over last five years. Under the leadership of Ratan Tata, from being a mere local steel producer, they transformed themselves into a major global player in steel producers. They have been aggressively involved in capacity expansion by acquisitions and organic growth. Business Standard once commented that "Tata Steel moved into its next target to become the world's second largest steel company by 2012 with the help of its most expensive bet worth US$ 12.9 billion on Corus Group".
Five year back, just after starting of Tata Steel's ambitious global expansion plan, they were hit by worldwide financial tsunami which tested their resilience. However a well created and communicated vision under the leadership of Ratan Tata has shown resilience and ability to withstand the unprecedented highs and lows of a future that often comes unheralded. Under the visionary leadership of Ratan Tata, Tata Group from being a small business group way back in 1990's, transformed them into a global business group by year 2010. This was a result of well created and communicated vision. Tata Steel has highly skilled employee asset of 81,000 spread over five continents. This workforce and stakeholders share a common vision of Tata Group which makes them very successful organisation worldwide.
In its mission statement Tata Steel expresses that while honesty and integrity are the essential ingredient of a strong and stable enterprise, profitability provides the main spark for economic activity. Founded way back in 1907, Tata Steel stress on their core ideology in its vision statement by making emphasis on their people, supplier of choice, innovative approach and their conduct. Tata Steel's vision statement is now became a tangible asset, which provide right direction to their managers and employees. Tata Steel has highly skilled employee asset of 81,000 spread over five continents.
Appendix A: Reference List
Roger Gill, "Theory and Practice of Leadership", Sage Publication, 2006
John P. Kotter, A Force For Change: How Leadership Differs From Management (New York: The Free Press, 1990).
O'Tool, James. Leadership from A to Z: A Guide for the Appropriately Ambitious, San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1999.
Visionary Leadership: Creating a Compelling Sense of Direction for Your Organization (Jossey Bass Business and Management Series): Burt Nanus
Tata Steel Group - Annual Reports (2005-06, 2006-07, 2007-08, 2008-09, 2009-10)