The most important step to create strong culture in a business is the vision. Think of the world’s best-known companies and you’re immediately able to visualise what they stand for. What do these examples say about the organisational vision?

A strong vision gives everyone in your business a unified purpose to work towards that’s incredibly engaging. As well as a guide to help people make more effective decisions.

Getting your vision right is tough

Especially one that’s truly authentic. If you’re going to do it properly, you have to spend time understanding what matters to the business. But also in terms of guiding people towards the culture that you want to achieve. As well as finding out how well those messages are already embedded as values. If you don’t, then mismatches between people’s current values and a vision that’s not perceived as authentic (or worse, just for show) leads to some truly spectacular failures.

Did you know that Enron‘s four key values defined in their vision were respect, integrity, communication and excellence? Do you think people saw these as authentic? Probably not.

The best way to build your vision is to make it a collaborative exercise. So involve people at every level of your business. You may think that added complexity from many people having their say makes it unnecessarily difficult to distill your vision down to a simple set of messages. It’s hard but it really pays dividends later on by improving engagement, and therefore how successful you are in achieving it.

A compass pointing to 'success'

Once you have a vision that works for you, use it as a guide to help clearly define what your business is all about. That includes the values that you expect people to adhere to as well as the long-term goal that you’re aiming towards.

It’d be great if you could just issue your vision as an edict that people naturally understand and know what to do with. But as you know, it really isn’t that simple.

How to embed your lasting vision

Here’s how to create something that people really strive towards as part of their daily working lives. Embedding your vision is an ongoing journey but I’ll focus here on my top three activities to kick-start your process:

  1. Spend time inspiring people with the message behind the vision: what does it really mean to the business (and every individual within) to achieve it? Make the positive impact personal, with a combination of both emotional and practical messages
  2. Give people time to understand what your vision means for them: they need to understand the practical implications on their own jobs and how it will guide their decision-making. One effective way to do this is to get people together in teams and work on practical case studies to help them understand how the vision helps daily, and what they can do individually to support that
  3. Reinforce the vision with visual messages: to embed your vision you need to constantly reinforce how important it is. High-quality graphic reminders make a real difference and sell the importance of the vision to people, as well as inspiring pride in its achievement. There are many examples of how well-designed marketing campaigns have positively changed people’s perception of what an organisation stands for, and applied effectively internally, you gain similar dramatic results

Take time to get your vision right

More than anything else, it’s worth taking the vision process seriously.

Spend enough time involving people to put a quality, authentic vision together. And spend time making sure it’s embedded using ongoing communication through a variety of channels. If you don’t take it seriously, whatever culture change programme you undertake is in danger of running out of steam, especially if the vision is seen as artificial or unclear.

The positive benefits of creating a clear picture of success are incredible and they take your culture (whether in safety or otherwise) to a level that is truly world-class.