Take a birds-eye view on your organisation
In times of trouble, we tend to lose ourselves in pragmatic details instead of stepping back to understand the bigger picture. With the uncertainty of the future in mind, most organisations cannot pursue the objectives that had been defined in the months long before knowing that a virus would soon unsettle our economy. But what can leaders do to find purpose and prepare for the unknown future? How can we provide focus and orientation to the ones we lead?
Open your eyes when the world is upheaval
In times of the corona-pandemic, predefined goals might have clashed with a series of unpredicted events. Thus, we need to adjust our behavior successively to being able to deal with this unfamiliar situation. The question remains how we can make good decisions under uncertainty. This is especially true when it comes to leaders who need to align their strategy under continuously changing circumstances. As soon as it appears to be impossible to solve this problem analytically, it could be worthwhile to change your mode of thinking to a more holistic approach.
Now that the rhythm of our world seems to slow down, it is a good time to start over and write a new and engaging vision of your organisation. It doesn’t sound like a simple task, does it? Certainly not, but it will help you to redefine your priorities and set tasks that feed into your overarching objective. Being particularly true for the biotech, pharma and healthcare industry, it is not unlikely that the relevance of your organization has increased in the face of the current pandemic because the need for innovative solutions against global diseases seems to be higher than ever before. Seeing the world in upheaval may generally open our minds for smart solutions in areas we have not considered before and help us to find our role within the bigger socio-economic picture. Thus, it is time to challenge the previously defined vision of your organisation and align your activities accordingly. Can you tell how?
Dream of a better world and define your common purpose
Generally, a vision is defined as a groundbreaking, unique picture of the future of your organisation that is meaningful, stimulating, perceived as important, encouraging, inspiring and shared by every member. This facilitates the long-term alignment of your objectives with the vision you have for the future. The words unique and inspiring seem to be especially important here because the vision should enhance the motivation to reach this state in every member of the organisation across all levels. Wikipedia’s vision statement has often been cited as one of the rare successful examples (Reference: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Purpose):
“Imagine a world in which every single person on the planet is given free access to the sum of all human knowledge.” —Jimmy Wales.
In a further description of their purpose, they write:
“Our goal with Wikipedia is to create a free encyclopedia; indeed, the largest encyclopedia in history, both in terms of breadth and in terms of depth. We also want Wikipedia to be a reliable resource.” —Larry Sanger
Create a momentum to unleash your hidden potentials
You might have realised that these statements are not related to any deadline to which the vision should be reached and thus must be split into strategic goals and smaller, measurable and realistic objectives later. Instead they are emotionally engaging and differentiate the company against competitors which is a key aspect for providing a sense of purpose to every member of the organisation. And we all know that a sense of purpose is crucial for individuals to do their best. Referring to “doing their best”, scholars often talk about “high levels of work-engagement” – defined as a positive, fulfilling, work-related state of mind that is characterised by vigour, dedication, and absorption (Bakker & Demerouti, 2008).
Research has further shown that the explicit communication of a compelling vision can increase adaptivity to change as well as proactivity in those employees who already show a predisposition for these behaviors (Griffin, Parker, & Mason, 2009). More specifically, employees dare to challenge the status quo and anticipate new demands to a greater extent as leaders explicitly allowed them to do so, particularly if they perceive themselves being capable and open to change. Consequently, leaders can boost innovativeness within their organization by telling an inspiring story about a common future, encouraging employees to go beyond their technical role if needed and providing a clear direction at the same time. Such a facilitating work atmosphere is a state every leader should strive for to prepare their organization for the future. Therefore, having a vision alone is not enough, but it can act like a catalyst that fires up our potentials to beat the crisis and develop valuable competencies.
Questions to ask yourself
But how can we nourish the smart minds in our organization and create a new momentum on our way towards the future? Before you define key objectives for the next few months, take a step back and clarify the vision that you have for your company to redefine the strategic goals worth striving for.
• What: What is the purpose of your organisation?
• How: Which attributes make your organisation special in the long-term? What is our unique approach to our business? How will your organization be described by others (employees, customers, competitors) when taking a time machine into 2030?
• Who: Who do we want to reach? Who should benefit from our products and services?
• Values: How do you serve the bigger societal picture? How do we make a better world?
More food for thought
Don’t forget that you are gaining learning experiences that help you to become more resistant to similar events in the future. You are just about to develop adaptive skills that allow you to still reach your objectives under ambiguous circumstances- even if you probably need to adjust them accordingly. For leaders, it is more important than ever before to genuinely believe in their people and to look forward towards a common future. In particular, a healthy dose of self-confidence and an innovative mindset will help leaders to integrate such crises as a positive learning experience. You now have the chance to activate your readiness to change. So, don’t let it slip away and rewrite the story of your organization.
But taking the global nature of your new vision statement into account – how you split this idea into strategic goals and eventually manageable objectives? Thinking strategically is important but useless if we do not ensure the implementation of strategic goals. In the next article, read about ways how to transfer your organisational dreams into the real-world step by step.
Bakker, A. B., & Demerouti, E. (2008). Towards a model of work engagement. Career Development International, 13(3), 209–223. doi.org/10.1108/13620430810870476
Griffin, M. A., Parker, S. K., & Mason, C. M. (2009). Leader vision and the development of adaptive and proactive performance a longitudinal study. Journal of Applied Psychology, 95(1), 174. Journal of Applied Psychology, 1–27.