A vision, a vision, my kingdom for a vision!
Paraphrasing Richard III’s famous line in Shakespeare’s play, nowadays, the presence of a vision is considered the key aspect when people talk about the relevance of a winning strategy. And… the main reason people point to in the failure of a strategy for growth or a project for change is… lack of vision.
A recent example, the cessation of activities of the Blokker brand is there to remind us. So, we can therefore conclude that vision is an essential factor in implementing winning strategies. But how to develop it?
In a previous article, scoring strategies versus boring strategies, we emphasized the way that a company’s core purpose (its “mission”) influences its vision.
Additionally, we encourage also the different departments within an organization to think about their core purpose and define a vision that is in sync with the company’s changing needs. This is the best way to allow people to open their minds and ensure the optimal contribution of the department to the business strategy.
A concrete vision
To illustrate how the vision can be developed, let’s take a look at the case of an American company that specializes in the manufacturing of concrete that is used in civil engineering structures and airstrips. Out of a desire to prepare for the future, the company decided to update its core purpose (formerly known as its “mission”) and to develop a vision for the next 10 years.
In line with the methodology that we recommend, a multidisciplinary internal team was entrusted with the job.Their conclusion: the core purpose of the company is not so much to manufacture concrete as to guarantee the safety of tens of millions of Americans who make use of the civil engineering structures every day or who use the landing strips constructed with its special concrete, safely and in all weather.
Guaranteeing safety. That’s the core purpose. Through its know-how in the manufacture of highly specific concretes, this company will be able to turn safety into a competitive advantage that will position it at the forefront of the market, far ahead of its competitors.
How to build the vision of a company that guarantees the safety of citizens by manufacturing concrete?
A strong and operative vision is not just the result of creative brainstorming. Above all, it needs to describe the company’s attitude in the face of evolutions that will have an impact on society and therefore on its activities or in the face of opportunities that will arise from technical, technological or societal progress.
A vision is built on “pillars”, which may vary depending on the activity or the market. It is made up of “strong and ambitious” goals that need to be defined for each of the pillars. A strong and ambitious goal is the kind that gives you goosebumps, excites you and motivates you.
Safety, a golden business
Our concrete specialist defined three pillars on which the company could construct its 10-year vision.
- Technological developments in the field of sensors, artificial intelligence, 3D printing and composite materials in the field of civil engineering.
- Continuous investment in the know-how and knowledge of the staff in order to allow them to handle increasingly complex projects in technological terms, including the development of the company’s expertise in the area of the design of the structures. This is an essential aspect in the development of the first pillar.
- A growing need for safety linked to the following trends:
- The accelerated aging of many bridges, tunnels, walkways, viaducts and other concrete or metal constructions, across all continents.
- An increased need to protect the public from the consequences of climate change: rising seas, greater number of storms and hurricanes in certain areas, drought.
- The new needs brought about by increasingly intensive migration from rural areas to cities.
The common thread in the vision: safety
Everyone’s thinking is guided by a common thread: in all applications, safety (in the broadest sense) must play a major role.
Working groups were set up to define ambitious goals for each of the pillars. They worked together on the integration of technology in order to enhance safety in concrete structures, the ongoing quest for excellence in the development of the employees’ knowledge and skills, the diversification of activities towards the construction of very large yet thin towers, floating cities and other complex structures that will still have to be invented, but also towards technologies for capturing CO2, producing green energy, recycling wastewater within a closed circuit, etc.
Here are just a few of the many potential concepts that were discussed:
- “Smart” bridges clad with sensors that provide an early warning if there is a defect or if maintenance is required.
- Building civil engineering structures in such a way that defective parts can be replaced at a lower cost by using 3D printing.
- Continuous training programs for staff using “holographic immersion”, which allows you to visit any structure in real time.
- Thin, giant towers linked together by ultra-light concrete aerial walkways to create new cities on land that has been flooded by the sea.
- Introduction of new materials to replace rusting steel.
- Composite concrete that generates solar electricity.
- Concrete produced using solar towers, enabling the production of CO2 neutral cement.
- Monitoring of all civil engineering structures in a country in real time using sensors integrated into the structures.
- Using artificial intelligence to predict, assess and address, in real time, the stresses on civil engineering structures.
The world of new possibilities opened up by the development of the vision becomes tangible and exciting. The vision moves the company forward towards the future and will guide the strategic choices that will ensure its growth.
How to define a vision? Draw upon the knowledge and creativity of your employees!
This is what the company that manufactures concrete did. It’s also the approach we recommend because it never fails to deliver exceptional results.
Starting from the “pillars of the vision” you have first defined (the areas that determine the evolution of your activities), working groups of 5-6 employees will do extensive prospective research. All scenarios can be considered at the start. There are no bad ideas, but they all have to incorporate the notion of “progress”.
After numerous iterations, discussions and analyses, each working group distills a synthesis of strong and ambitious goals for its pillar. This synthesis will form the substance of the vision which can be established for a period of 3 years, 10 years, or more depending on the type of market in which the company operates.
Goals can be both qualitative and quantitative.
For the concrete manufacturing company, the following ambitious goals were chosen:
Ambitious goal 1:
In 10 years, we will be producing engineering and civil engineering structures that will be 2 times more resistant, 2 times more durable and half as expensive – both in terms of construction and maintenance – than those of today. We will also build them twice as fast.
Ambitious goal 2:
Based on the experience accumulated in engineering structures, in 10 years, we want to become the “SpaceX” of the construction of carbon neutral cities on land and sea, that are safe for the inhabitants and sustainable in terms of energy consumption and environmental impact.
Ambitious goal 3:
Starting today, we will make a concerted effort to ensure that engineers around the world put our company at the top of the list of the companies they would like to work for, thanks to our continuous focus on the development of knowledge and innovation for the safety of the public.
Let’s get to work!
We believe that a company should include the following elements in its reflection on vision today:
- Technological evolution in the widest possible range of areas because we anticipate revolutions in technologies that will have a direct impact on our lifestyles. For example, Google has just announced that it has manufactured a “quantum chip” capable of performing a calculation in 200 seconds that would take 10,000 years to be performed by a supercomputer.
- Global societal changes such as demographics (climate refugees will soon be a reality), the aging of populations on some continents and the explosion of populations on others.
- Protection of the environment and the climate (carbon footprint, green energy, responsible agriculture, etc.).
- The notion of the sustainability of activities in all senses, including a business model that maintains the “moral” commitment and motivation of the men and women who produce the goods and services.
- The consumption patterns resulting from the quest for well-being outside traditional economic circuits.
- The needs for protection in a broad sense: health, social life, security, privacy.
- The needs and pressures that come to bear in the area of mobility, with regard to people as well as products, machines and facilities.
- The impact and the opportunities created by all of these changes amongst current and future competition.
Developing a vision is fascinating work because it forces you to imagine yourself in the future, to open yourself to the world and to come up with bold ideas… which are essential for your future dynamic!
In a third article, which will be published very soon, we will analyze the role played by corporate values in the implementation of the vision – values translated into behaviors that will allow you to implement winning strategies that will differentiate your business over the long term.