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How to fine-tune your vision for effective change

Glenys Barton

Driving successful change isn’t simply about knowing what you want to achieve and getting the economics and technology right, says Dan Ciampa, writing for MIT Sloan Management Review.

If you want your teams fully engaged with the new attitudes and behaviours you have in mind, then you will need to create and communicate an appealing vision of a better future.

Do you have a crystal clear image of what success will look like for your organisation – how your teams will feel, what they will see and hear around them?


Charged with defining a vision for their business, Ciampa says some leaders confuse it with their mission statement:

“Many respond with something like, ‘Our vision is to be the most innovative, agile company in our industry.’ To which I reply, ‘That’s a mission, not a vision’. New behaviour doesn’t come from missions, however aspirational, but from deep, emotional commitment to doing things differently.”

The two stances commonly adopted by leaders are to either present a reasonable rationale for change, explaining why it will boost the company; or to flag up the pitfalls of maintaining the status quo – poor performance and job losses, for example.


The visionary alternative is a harder nut to crack, but infinitely more effective. These five pointers will help you to fine-tune and communicate your image:

1) Create an authentic and exclusive vision. Your company is unique and its vision must be too. It should echo your personality and passion if you want your teams to believe in it.

2) Make it as engaging as possible. If you want people to embrace your conviction, you need to present a colourful, emotional story that they want to be a part of. Explore original ways to deliver it. One leader wrote a tale about a hero (his company) battling an unscrupulous villain (the industry leader), and engaged an actor to read it to his top 200 managers.

3) Be cautious in detailing change. People are more comfortable with pictures they recognise. Be careful not to overplay the extent of the changes you envisage before they have a chance to get used to the concept – particularly the upheaval of long-established norms. Get them on side first with an honest, broader image.

4) Talk about valued behaviours. Most leaders will focus on their core values alongside their mission statement. However, when initiating change it’s more beneficial to emphasise the practices you appreciate now, as well as the behaviours you anticipate will support the company’s future success.

5) Be adamant but adaptable. Give your key managers the opportunity to refine some elements of your vision and they will be more inclined to take ownership and cascade enthusiasm to their teams. Decide the areas that you won’t negotiate on and be flexible around the rest.

Your quest is to deliver an image of your intended future state that is simple, inspiring and compelling enough to become a common vision your whole team. Harnessing these five basic tips will help to pave the way.