How to Do a One Page Vision Statement

Takes Under 1 HourD

This article provides a process for arriving at a philosophy about why your business exists. Until that is clear, life is happening to you; and often it can play rough!
We show here how to (ideally) construct a one page document that can be shared amongst all of the businesses staff to get everybody on the same page about the future of the business. We call this a One Page Vision Statement. Many prominent business writers talk about the same thing, but may call them slightly different names. This process is followed by another to develop a clear sense of your goal, or destination, in the next 3-5 years. Yellow belt.

Prerequisites

This article assumes you have already read the article on deciding on a destination for your business.
Go to the article: 
Quick Goal Setting for Time Poor

If not, please skim read it before continuing with this one to better understand the process. You don't necessarily need to actually produce a set of goals to continue reading this article.
You will go back and design the Destination once you have the Vision, but it helps to have an idea of the process in advance.

Why A One Page Plan

If you, as the business leader, have set goals yourself, you may have realised how much that clarified the understanding of where you want to take the business.

Now consider that your staff are even more uncertain about where the business is going than you might have been, as they follow blindly wherever you take them. Until you clarify this for them, they may be diligently, and with the best of intentions, be doing things in the business that negatively impact on your vision and destination.

Some of the unfortunate outcomes of this situation include:

  • The staff are not fully engaged as they do not know where the business is going.
  • They may feel that they cannot take initiative as they do not know the "right" direction to go and therefore whether the initiative is correct.
  • You have to be actively involved in micro-managing many of the decisions because the staff do not know what the "right" decision is.
  • Staff are unclear about their future promotion and pay with the business as they do not know where the business is going and how much it might grow. Business growth, in turn, opens up potential promotion spots for them. People in fully staffed, no-growth businesses realise that there are no promotion opportunities for them, unless someone leaves the business. Good ones might leave for this reason in search of better promotion opportunities if they don't know what is coming.
  • The people most likely to articulate their concern about the direction of the business are the more senior staff. However, just like you can only see one third of an iceberg above water, all members of your staff are probably suffering from the same uncertainty, but do not have the chance, or the ability, to express their concerns to you.

Who Does this

There is definitely a stage in this process where you want to involve the rest of your staff and maybe some appropriate external people.

However, if this is all new to you, it may be new to those other players.
If so, we encourage you to go through these steps by yourself first. There are two reasons:

  1. You want to be clear, in your own head, what the process is. If you are going to be leading your team through this, you want to have experienced the process yourself and ironed out any parts that you could not follow, before trying to explain the process to other, even less experienced, people.
  2. If you were the founder of the business, the Destination must be one that you want to head for. You have every right to set that. If staff disagree, this is a good test for those that should be let go (discussed more below).

Once you have the bones that suit you, it is good practice to involve other parties, like staff, who will be impacted.

There are several reasons for this including:

  • You will get other opinions to add to the mix.
  • Parts that are not clear to others will be identified and can be improved.
  • There is likely to be more 'ownership' if they are involved compared to just been given the document.
  • If you mix in diversity and people from all ranks of the company, you will get suggestions that cover their concerns as well as yours. You will also have ambassadors with their peer groups who can explain the process and meaning in their own words.
  • You have started the process of moving the company onto that Vision.

A Note on Terminology

Many highly respected authors have spoken about this sort of document and there are several different ways of achieving the same purpose.
We list some of these authors below in Resources.

One of the more confusing aspects, of having several writers, is that they tend to use different terminology for the same thing. Alternatively, they use the same word (eg. Vision) for different purposes.

For this reason, you should feel free to interchange our terminology for the terminology of other writers; or make up your own!

The essential characteristics of what we are about to discuss are pretty much agreed upon across the whole spectrum of writers.

Core Purpose

The Core Purpose, of this one page plan, to be laying a long-term foundation for the reason that the business was created and/or continues to operate.

If you are the Founder of the business, you would have some very clear ideas of what you wanted to do, in general terms, when you founded the business. These may still be valid or you may have adapted the Core Purposes of your business since its Foundation.

However, no matter what, this first step is:

  • To jot down on paper your present feelings about the core things your business exists to implement.
  • These may or may not be circulated in the format you write them.

Do this first, and in some detail, so that it will help you to get your thinking clear for the following steps.

Core Mission

The Core Mission is a very brief statement of the founding purpose of the Company.

This Mission is designed to build commitment amongst your staff and/or amongst your customers.

Ideally it should be something fairly short that you can say to people in response to a question from them about what it is that you do. This is the equivalent of the so called "5 minute elevator speech". You describe your business in the time it takes an elevator to take you from the 1st floor to the 48th floor.

A short Mission is preferable as it is easier to keep in one's mind.

If necessary, you could write extensions to this Core Mission, as dot points, which expand upon what you have in mind. Do not have more information than is included in your Mission Statement.

Example: 
An accountant might have the following Core Mission:

Our Mission is to provide accurate and timely accounting services that comply with government regulations and provide useful management insight for clients.

There is another example in the Case Study section below.

Core Customer Philosophies

The Core Customer Philosophies are dot point descriptions of the customer-facing things the business focuses on.

Write this down by starting out saying:
"Our customer philosophy is:" and add approximately 6 dot points.

Continuing the accountant example:

Our Customer Philosophy is:

Ensure accounting reports are presented and explained in a manner the client can understand and utilise.
Have End-of-Year tax reports, which are due a refund, ready within 3 months. The client can claim a timely refund.
Highlight emerging performance declines in the business based on the annual reports.
Provide forward-looking tax planning advice especially addressing issues the client may not have considered.
Provide regular updates on timings and respond to client communications promptly.
Provide an informative and educational newsletter to clients once a  quarter.

Core Stakeholder Values

The Core Stakeholder Values are how the business relates to its internal stakeholders. 

Stakeholders would certainly include staff, owners (if they are a different group) and possibly some of the professional service providers to the business.

Again, these are dot points to explain how the business intends to treat its Stakeholders.

Continuing the accountant example:

Our Stakeholder Values are:

  • Stakeholders will co-operate with and respect each other.
  • There are levels of management whose instructions are to be respected in levels below them.
  • All Stakeholders are actively encouraged to provide inputs on the operation of the business, especially those areas where they are subject-matter experts.
  • Incentive systems will reflect staff's personal contributions to the success of the business at all levels.
  • We will only hire or retain staff and managers who respect these Values.

Target Client Characteristics

As part of the Vision setting process, the management team needs to consider the nature of their target clients. The plan is to then focus all your attention on them. They are the ones described in the Vision Statement.

Therefore, you would consider such things as:

  • Do l/we like associating with these people?
  • Are there enough of them that we can capture to earn the Revenue and Profit that we want?
  • How great is the competition for them?
  • Is it likely we can have an effective marketing strategy reaching them?

Unique Service Proposition

The oft used term "Unique Service Proposition" (USP), describes the service that you plan to offer and the particular niche in the market place that you wish to occupy. This process is also known as Positioning or Categorisation.

For more information on deciding the market slot that you wish to occupy: read our separate article on USP (LINK).
Go to the article: Unique Selling Proposition

Immediate Direction

Having defined the long term aspects of the reason for the business starting up, and how it proposes to operate with its customers and its stakeholders, it is now time to build a: 

3-5 year Plan incorporating the Vision.

This process is outlined in more detail in the Leaders Briefing: LB3 Quick Goal Setting for Time Poor

Essentially, you are looking to build a:

  • 3 Year Destination Plan.
  • 1 Year Plan.
  • Quarterly Plan for the first year.

Rolling Out The Vision Statement

Once you have your Vision Statement, it should be released to the entire company at a staff meeting, if that is possible. Failing that, a video conference or video presentation.

At that roll out time, each member of staff should be given a laminated copy of the document for convenient reference. Some companies put the key points on a credit card sized document that can fit in their wallet.

Tell them about the Vision over and over. People need to be told 3 to 5 times (at least) before the penny really drops that you are serious about this. You will find yourself getting sick and tired of telling people about it, but you will definitely need to keep the pressure on.

You should actively encourage your senior managers to do the same thing. If nothing else, the age old adage from Plato that "expression is impression", means that if your management staff are talking about the document, they have to understand it first.

The intention, now, is that your staff can increasingly make decisions themselves on a day to day basis, guided by the materials in your Vision Statement and confident that they are making the right decision.

This reduces the micro-managing that you have been caught up in prior to developing the Vision Statement.

For all these reasons, you want some simple, clear and transparent documentation that includes:

  • Where you are going.
  • Is suitable to be shared with every member of staff.
  • So that they then get on board with the idea.

Another by-product of the clear destination is that your staff better understand how they will gain promotion by following the written path. This will have the twofold effect of encouraging them to follow the path and make them less nervous about how to get ahead.

The Right People on the Bus

Respected management writer, Jim Collins, famously said that:

  1. Work out where the destination of the business is with a Vision Statement.
  2. "Get the right people on the bus" who can execute the Vision.
  3. Point the bus towards the destination and push down on the accelerator.

The Vision document now becomes an essential screening tool when hiring people to go on the bus.

As well as interviewing them for their technical expertise, you are interviewing them to ensure that they are likely to understand the Mission and work with the Customer Philosophies and Stakeholder Values in the document. Irrespective of their technical competency, if they are not likely to follow what is in your Vision, they are the "wrong people for the bus".

In the same way, you may find that you have existing staff that are unlikely to agree with, and follow, the directions that are setup in your Vision Statement. In order to head, as efficiently as possible, to your chosen Destination, these are the type of people you would want to remove over time.

It is also likely, if you have many staff, that a number of them have maxed out on their potential. This may be an opportunity to review their future in the light of your vision.

Go to the article: Peter Principle: Promotion to Incompetency 

Real Life Case Study

Time taken: 35 minutes by owner

Core Purpose:
To create a food and beverage outlet that allows people to enjoy various areas depending on their idea of eating out and entertainment.
To provide a food and beverage outlet that excels in what it offers, food and beverage.

Core Mission:
Is to provide excellent food, a unique and interesting variety of beverage and exemplary customer service.
To have staff who genuinely care about their customers well-being and enjoyment.
To provide our food and beverage in varying environments for the different groups we attract.

Our Customer Philosophy is:
Ensure staff are polite and discreetly attentive of customers at all times
Ensure that the food quality is consistent always.
Ensure that the meals and drinks are delivered to the customer in a timely manner.
Ensure that customers are presented with regular variation of meals and drinks.
Ensure that the premises are presented in a clean and orderly manner.
Ensure that all staff are well versed on the menu and drinks that are available.

Our Stakeholder Values are:
All staff, no matter who they are, will show respect to each other.
All staff will co-operate with each other.
External stakeholder’s opinions are to be valued and respected.
We encourage staff to openly contribute their opinions in the operation of the business.
Staff and stakeholders who do not follow these values will not be retained.

Target Client Characteristics:
Customers who value innovation in food and beverages.
Customers who show respect to our staff at all times.
Customers who are well behaved and respect our business premises at all times.
Customers who value being able to challenge our business with unusual ideas for venues and food.

Unique Service Proposition:
Our business offers the best dining experience in the region, with innovative food and beverage featuring locally produced ingredients and drinks, skilled staff and signature events at unusual venues.
Our main premises is the only one in the region providing several dining and entertainment experiences to suit the event and group size; ranging from a comfortable bar, casual brasserie, a fine dining room and function room. The dining experience in each of our venues reflects the experience the customer is seeking; from a casual night out through to gourmet groups looking for a challenge.
We are the largest regional caterer for events at outside venues.

Resources

The description we have given above, of the One Page Vision Setting process, is a fairly streamlined method that will take you under 1 hour to develop.

You will gradually embroider it as you think about it over the next few weeks. We call this yellow belt Goal Setting.

If you want to have a more sophisticated process, or if you want to learn more about how to roll out your One Page Vision to your team, there are several highly regarded writers who have addressed this one page planning process.

Some that we rely upon heavily are:

  • Jim Collins
  • Verne Harnish
  • Gino Wickman.

Many of their books have sections on Vision and Goal Setting in more detail.
You will also find YouTube videos and podcasts.