How to Lead a Group Writing a Vision Statement
As the leader of a group charged with writing a vision statement, you want the members to brainstorm ideas and come up with a compelling description of the business’s values and future plans. You also want to keep the process moving along smoothly and make it as productive as possible. First, group members should understand the vision statement’s purpose and their role in shaping it.
If you’re handpicking group members, select people who demonstrate the company’s standards and values in their own work. Pick six to eight people to keep the process manageable. Include managers and nonmanagers, and depending on the size of your company, people from diverse areas, such as finance, human resources and marketing. A vision statement needs input from staff at every level of the company. If possible, include someone with exceptional writing skills to draft the statement.
People confuse vision statements with mission statements. Explain the difference to the group before the brainstorming session. Mission statements describe a company’s purpose and the strategies for fulfilling its goals. Vision statements describe the organization’s purpose and goals through its core beliefs, or values. A mission statement might announce a company’s plans to be the fastest auto-detailing service in the region. A vision statement might read: "We want to provide busy car owners with fast, affordable auto-detailing service that beautifies their vehicles while freeing up their time." Vision statements should inspire employees to adopt the company’s highest standards and encourage customer loyalty.
Before the brainstorming session, send group members an email explaining their task, the vision-writing process, and the difference between vision and mission statements. Include the company’s mission statement as a basis for writing the vision statement. To generate brainstorming ideas, ask the group to describe the company’s customers, its products or services, what it does best and what sets it apart from the competition. Also ask group members what company values influence their work.
Stock the brainstorming room with markers, flip charts and masking tape. Write the mission statement on a flip-chart sheet to tape up in the room. Have pens and paper on hand for the group’s use.
Open the session by requesting responses to the email questions. Give group members one to two minutes each to share their thoughts and ideas. Write their comments on the flip-chart sheets as they speak, or assign the task to someone who can act as the group’s scribe. Tape the sheets on the walls so group members can review all the comments.
Ask the group to look for similarities in the comments and to see how they tie in with the mission statement. A majority of the group might agree, for example, that building customized garden sheds is what the company does better than its competitors. Or more than half of the group might believe that always placing customers’ needs first is a company value they ascribe to in their work. These types of group observations form the vision statement. Ask the scribe to categorize and number similar responses on flip-chart sheets. Categories should be numbered by size so that the category with the most similar responses is number one. Allow 30 minutes for this activity.
Instruct each group member to focus on the top three categories. Give the group five minutes to prioritize them on paper. Have the scribe collect the papers and sort through the categories to find out which one landed most often in the top-priority spot and which ones landed most often in the second or third spots. If a group member is a skilled writer, have that person incorporate the three categories into one or two sentences on a flip-chart sheet. This is a draft of the vision statement. Give the group 10 minutes to view and discuss it. Allow the writer two or three minutes to revise the vision statement, if necessary, write it on a standard sheet of paper and pass the sheet to each group member to approve and sign off on it.