How vision determines success

May 8, 2006

We all want to make our projects successful. Doing so demands total focus of all available resources. Focus requires excellent communication among all team members. Simple, right?

We all want to make our projects successful. Doing so demands total focus of all available resources. Focus requires excellent communication among all team members. Simple, right?

Why, then, do so many projects fall short of the mark, either in magnitude of the result or in timing due to delays that lead to cost overruns? The answer may be simply a lack of proper planning.

Planning is the process associated with doing things right. Strategy is the process associated with doing the right things. Use of the term strategic is key here.

Clearly, we need the strategy prior to the planning, since the strategy guides the planning. Unfortunately, many teams start with planning, since everyone believes they have the answers. By starting with strategy, we find ourselves compelled to first search for the right set of questions.

I find a vision statement very useful in guiding a team during strategy development. It consists of a purpose (clear direction of where you are heading) and a mission (approximately five strategic thrusts to ensure you achieve the purpose). I've personally guided teams to success in a number of major battles in this industry. The team-derived vision statement was the key ingredient in every case.

Team-derived is not just a buzz word. Only when all members of the team buy in to and understand exactly where the team is headed does the chance of success increase significantly.

Now let's look at purpose. Consider the following statement: "Achieve sales of S in Y years in order to ensure that company C becomes #1 in the M market."

Notice that the purpose is short and to the point. Clarity is important. In addition, results can be easily measured against the purpose statement. There should be no doubt as to whether the team is on the right track.

A good approach to bringing the team together is to create the purpose as a team. I like to start by having everyone throw out a word, something important that they believe should be in the purpose. Then the team needs to select the most important words, combine terms to remove redundancy, and remove the words that don't fit. At this point, someone will be ready to provide a sentence. A bit of team tweaking, and the team will own its purpose.

Having a purpose in place, the team must then determine the key strategic thrusts to ensure that the purpose will be achieved. Start by having the team members come up with sentences representing key strategic thrusts. Once you have accumulated about 15 such thrusts, it is time to organize all of these data to convert them into information for appropriate decision making.

Once again, we would prefer to have five strategic thrusts, if that is possible. Remember three are too few, and seven are too many (DI SCAN, 4/7/06 High 5 highlights importance of understanding the competition ).

Let's consider some examples for illustration only, as they may not apply to your present situation.

Our first strategic thrust might focus on the customer and our ability to be competitive: Focus on total customer satisfaction using innovative marketing strategies. This will sound familiar to you if you read the High 5 article. The High 5 is the perfect tool for achieving this strategic thrust. It would be based on the key factors that customers use to determine how to evaluate and differentiate vendor products.

Our second strategic thrust might focus on profitability for both the customer and the vendor: Achieve a reasonable profit for its customers and for company C. Most customers understand the importance of generating profits. The key to this strategic thrust is that it shows the customer that company C considers itself in the same boat as the customer.

Our third strategic thrust might focus on research, as well as the process needed to ensure having the best products available to meet customer needs: Use key sites for joint product development to optimize the attainment of clinical/technical excellence. The best way of meeting customer needs is to develop the product in conjunction with the customer. This approach brings together the technology of the vendor and the clinical knowledge of the customer. I can't stress enough the significance of the clinical/technical tie - it has and will continue to separate the men and women from the boys and girls.

Our fourth strategic thrust might focus on employees: Hire excellent people, thoroughly train them, and place the right people in the right jobs. Success is always related to people. With adequate attention to people, the return on investment is always worth the effort.

Our fifth strategic thrust might focus on regulations: Comply proactively with all regulations and processes. Business practices have become more demanding than ever before. Setting up the right practices at the start is sure to pay off in the long term. For start-ups, knowledge of processes used by a public company is a must to ensure that the right things are done.

The final step in the process of attaining a highly useful vision statement is to ask whether the selected factors are both necessary and sufficient to achieve the purpose. In answering this question, the team might find that some tweaks to the selected five strategic thrusts are useful. Perhaps an additional strategic thrust is required.

Having the vision in place, the team is ready to start the planning process of doing things right, the actions required to carry out the vision.

Schilling is an editorial advisor to Diagnostic Imaging and president of RBS Consulting in Los Altos Hills, CA. He asks that comments or questions be addressed ronald11341@aol.com.