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No problem can withstand the assault of sustained thinking. -- Voltaire
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The 11 Required Elements Of A Successful Vision
What is a Vision?
There is a lot of talk about maintaining a vision, especially as part of a CEO's job. In my opinion, vision is one of those terms that is both greatly overused and largely misunderstood. Many people consider vision to be an all encompassing view of the product. Others will expand it's meaning to include the entire market and still others believe the term encompasses far more.
Having been personally responsible for a corporation's vision for many years, I believe it covers more than what most people think. So, what follows is my definition of vision, and I do not understate the case when I say that, with few exceptions, the lack of a strong vision puts you at a distinct competitive disadvantage.
To begin with, I believe a vision must encompass virtually everything about the business. This includes everything from things as high level and broad as the organizational chart right down to details like basic product functionality. It also includes the strategic and tactical levels of every discipline required to run the business. This must include these two levels for finance, sales, marketing, operations, and product development. Each variable must be imagined over time as a series, because many will rapidly change. Does this sound like a mind-blowing exercise? Yes it does. Thankfully, though, because our brains are wired to think visually, and are the most powerful computers on earth, this task is well within the most people's intellectual capacity. The biggest issue is most people don't have all the needed information or the experience to understand and design these business models.
This is real work; not magic, luck, or the flash of insight that may have been the genesis of a product's unique abilities. As Thomas Edison says "Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety nine percent perspiration." The exercise of writing a business plan generally fills in much of the vision and is worth the effort even if you throw the plan in the trash when you are done. It can allow the merger of different skills to happen to evolve the vision but is never the same as having the experience in one head, which forces greater discipline and integration.
Why, you ask, must a vision be so elaborate? Because, the purpose of a vision is to have something complete, and against which you can hold up all major business decisions. It is almost a philosophy for the company to live by. This helps ensure consistency across departmental goals and helps eliminate other major factors that can split a business into fractional pieces; such as two departments going after different objectives, and effectively dividing your resources across these objectives, or even markets.
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Other Articles For Any Company:
Modes Of Management
A Simple Framework For Employee Development
The Messaging Communications Pyramid
The Startup Manual
Learn new ways to
design, launch, hire, and
manage your startup for rapid growth. This manual and CD
will show you the proven
methods that will take
you from the raw idea stage to
a significant company.
The CEO Group
MIT Enterprise Forum
WPI Enterprise Forum
Association For Corporate Growth
The Perfect Startup Model
One of the best models I have seen on how to run a start-up was the development of the SR-71 spy plane by Lockheed's skunkworks. The SR-71 spy plane was so far ahead of its time, that 30 years after its initial design and development, it was still the fastest plane on the planet. The development of the plane is a great metaphor for a startup company and the management methods used should be examined by every startup executive as an example of product design and development on minimum resources that yield maximum results. The plane itself is also a great metaphor for a startup company.
The Skunkworks group's methods and results are a classic example of what can be done with minimal resources, strong motivation and a small high quality team that is focused on a clear and narrow vision. Understanding this analogy can go a long way towards building a successful startup management philosophy.
The relatively small development team worked closely and without distraction or legacy issues. They were forced to leverage off-the-shelf components due to time constraints, so they could not reinvent the wheel to make every part perfect. To understand this concept better, see the book, The Mythical Man-month, which describes the diminishing returns of adding more and more people to projects until at some point the additional people can actually slow down delivery and hurt quality. Today, most large companies, and even many small ones, have this problem when developing new products. They actually spend too much money with too many people over too much time. It is somewhat counter-intuitive but also absolutely true.
I have used these techniques in large-scale product and software development and have achieved eleven times the industry standard for productivity. I am not talking about marginal improvements here, but major leaps forward in productivity, customer satisfaction, and overall results.
For the Rest of This Article and the Five Lessons Learned from the "Skunkworks" mentality
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The SR-71 travels at Mach 3.2+ (about 2,500 MPH) at over 85,000 feet altitude. In the early 1960s it was designed and developed in less than a third of the time that was then typical for an aircraft (about 18 months instead of 5+ years), with fewer people, AND at a small fraction of the cost of typical projects at the time. Yet, it was one of the most successful planes of all time, and was still "ahead of competitors" 25 years later!
Other Articles For Early-stage Companies:
Top Ten Rules For Startup Success
Top Ten Tips On Getting Angel Financing
Bob Norton is CEO of C-Level Enterprises, which provides CEO Level help, coaching and consulting/interim CEO services to companies up to $1 billion in revenue. He has been a full-time CEO since 1989 and now works with companies to refine business models, launch products, polish company visions, maximize performance, and design businesses for long-term strategic advantage. He can be reached at Bob@CLevelEnterprises.com.
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