Imagine that it’s 1980, and that you and your team are the Leadership Team of Southwest Airlines. The company is in its upstart days. You’re working in a run-down building on the edge of Love Field in Dallas, with green walls and gray metal desks because that’s all you can afford.

You’re about to start a meeting where you and your team will decide whether or not to place an order for 25 airplanes. At this point in the company’s life, it’s a huge decision.

Now imagine two scenarios for that meeting:

  • First, imagine that you and your team walk into the room having already committed—as the result of fierce debate, discussion and argument—to the goal of having a 500-plane fleet serving 75 markets by 1990, 10 short years from now. How long do you think it’s going to take to decide whether to place the order?
  • Now imagine that you walk into the room having NOT agreed on how big you want to be by when. Every team member has his or her own idea in their head, so there are five or six or seven different versions of it in the room. Now how long is that decision going to take?

That example is entirely made up, but hopefully it makes the point. The conventional language about why “Vision” matters is that clarity and alignment around it will “get everyone rowing in the same direction.” Very nice, and probably true. But it’s a little hard to know exactly what that means.

So, let’s make it unambiguous. “Vision” is code for “what we want to build.” It’s a picture of the future we want to create. When that picture is clear and compelling, and we’ve all committed to it, we will make better decisions faster.

Vision is about speed.

To get companies get aligned around a compelling vision, we start by helping them answer four questions:

  • Who are we? What are our Core Values, and what kind of people and culture do we want?
  • Why are we here? What is the overriding purpose or rallying cry that drives this business?
  • What do we really do? What does the world actually pay us for? (My favorite example – Enterprise is in the business of creating used cars)
  • Where do we want to be in 5-10 years?

When your team has gone deep on those four questions and reached answers that are clear, inspiring and genuinely shared by all, you’ll have the foundations of a solid roadmap for your future. Not the entire roadmap – you still have to build the plan. But you’ll have the guideposts you need to make better decisions faster.

Vision is about speed.

Next time, we’ll talk about Accountability. If you’d like to move faster, click here to let us know, and we’ll start a conversation.