One Giant Leap and “The Vision Thing”
The 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 lunar landing on July 20 brought back some old memories. For my generation, Neil Armstrong’s first step onto the lunar surface is one of those few events in history where you can remember exactly where you were and what you were doing. I remember staying up a little late on a Sunday night and huddling around the TV with the rest of my family to watch him take the first step and utter those famous words: “That’s one small step for (a) man, one giant leap for mankind.”
How did this incredible event—almost unthinkable 10 years earlier—happen? As Armstrong, a very humble hero, said many times, it was due to the combined work of hundreds of thousands of people (an estimated 300-400,000 people had some role in the mission). These were not people merely punching the clock, or just doing what they had to do. How were all of these people able to focus to get this done? The answer is (as President George H.W. Bush referred to it) “the vision thing.”
Vision means having a crystal-clear idea of where you are going and how you are going to get there, and then getting everyone to share in that vision. The vision for the moon landing began with President Kennedy’s bold speech on May 25, 1961, where he set a goal of “landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to Earth” by the end of the 1960s. That is what Jim Collins calls a BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal) in “Good to Great” and what we call in the EOS® system a “Core Target.” This audacious goal was achieved, of course, with about five months to spare.
The achievement of this goal was shared by the entire nation, but most deeply by those working on the missions. It was the Core Focus—the “Why”—for their organizations and their jobs, and consumed even their personal lives for the time they worked on the project. They were passionate about achieving that goal; no one wanted to let anyone (especially the brave astronauts) down.
Your organization may not have a vision as bold as landing on the moon, but you can still answer the question “Why do we exist?” Define your Core Focus (your purpose, cause or passion). You can also set a Core Target (5-30 years out, most commonly 10 years). Get all your people to share in your vision, and you will be well on your way to achieving your own “giant leap.”