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Francis Wade | Creating a memorable vision of the future

As a founder or CEO in your company, you want to get the most from stakeholders. Some react positively, wanting the best for the organisation.

But now and then, you observe glaring gaps even among motivated individuals. For example, their departments can end up working at cross-purposes. Why? The problem is that their managers see the future differently.

Although you consistently restate the vision as a leader, it doesn’t seem to be memorable.

You would like to coordinate them with a single, well-defined destination but don’t think that repeating your vision is enough. Perhaps you need to take a different approach.

Does It matter?

In addition to seeing staff working at cross-purposes, you also notice that some are not motivated. Unable to seek a better future, they quit.

However, the reasons why aren’t clear. All are being paid regularly and may have no reason to complain. Profits are consistent, and the firm’s reputation is stellar.

But instead of being proud and happy, folks either lack interest or grumble.

What you have failed to realise is that human beings, once their basic needs are met, want to live and work inside an inspiring future. And furthermore, when they don’t see it materialising, they take matters into their own hands. Instead, they follow personal futures.

Case in point No. 1: Your best staff members are more excited about migrating than staying in your company. You think it’s just ‘life in Jamaica’, but no. They reject the ‘future-to-live-into’ offered by your leadership.

Case in point No. 2: The board wants to see the organisation make some big bets. But its directors don’t realise how scared executives are to take risks. Apparently, your vision isn’t enough. They also need a “future-to-live-into”.

What is a future-to-live-into?

Your organisation may have moved beyond a leader’s unwritten vision and crafted a vision statement. But if it is stale, vague, or lacking specific dates, don’t expect it to do much. Your staff has become accustomed to more exciting stuff on YouTube and TikTok.

What jobs were the vision statements originally supposed to do?

In the past, they used to offer an inspiring future-to-live-into. As popularised by Werner Erhard, it is defined as an invented future that is ‘languaged’, visualised, and shared in ways that compel people to react positively.

Case in point No. 3: Our national heroes made a difference by articulating exciting futures-to-live-into. Even when the personal risk was high, they acted with courage, inspiring others to act.

How can you capture some of that power? Another town hall meeting followed by insipid Q&A’s won’t be enough to displace the default futures people are living into.

The good news is that there are design principles to follow. Here is a peek at one that is frequently violated. Design rule: a joined-up, dated, and inspiring end-point.

To move beyond your founder/CEO’s vision, or tired statements, consider that stakeholders want explicit inspiration and meaning. That is, they want to see, know, and be able to articulate a future-to-live-into. This is especially true if they are doing professional knowledge work, which requires creativity and foresight.

At this point, former visions (written and unwritten) are just an input to the method, mere relics from the past.

Instead, a fresh future-to-live-into is developed from a blank sheet. But that is not the first step. Begin the process by crafting a group summary of all salient facts, internal and external. Do this in a way that gives the company insight into the past so that team members have a shared background of prior successes and failures.

Also, assess trends that cannot be avoided.

Then, move to a blank sheet. Set a target year that can anchor your people’s ideas in the same timeframe. For this, you want folks to be thinking about outcomes defined by a chosen year.

In the next step, define a big vision using words and numbers, populated with BHAGs or big hairy audacious goals. If these are inspiring, you are on the right track.

But don’t stop here. Your stakeholders want to know that a credible strategic plan supports the company’s aspirations. Create one with enough detail to prove the concept’s viability and bring everyone on the same page.

By the end of the process, you’ll have brought the team together under a single, fresh, future-to-live-into. Consequently, your staff will gladly set aside whatever default future they were being guided by.

Instead, they will have an inspiring hope that is worth investing in. You will have created a cause worth fighting for rather than a mere job that gives them a regular pay cheque.

Francis Wade is a management consultant and author of Perfect Time-Based Productivity. To search past columns on productivity, strategy and business processes, or give feedback, email:

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