"The quality of your vision determines the creativity, quality and originality of your ideas and solutions. A powerful vision statement should stretch expectations and aspirations helping you jump out of your comfort zone."
Time Thoughts Website
As with the mission statement, there is no simple right or wrong answer and ultimately what counts is its appropriateness and suitability for the institution and where it is on its own particular ‘journey’. However, as with the mission statement, it is possible to define some general principles of good practice which it may prove useful to consider when revising your current vision statement, or drafting a new one.
The vision statement is supposed to challenge, enthuse and inspire. Use powerful words and vivid phrases to articulate the kind of institution you are trying to become. This is your chance to lift your institution’s gaze above the grind of day-to-day gripes and problems and to focus attention on ‘the bigger picture’ and the potential rewards that await
If you set your sights on being ‘within the top 10′ the chances are that the best you will come is 10th. If your real aim is to hit the top 5, why not say so and go for broke? What targets you set and how high you aim will, in themselves, also say something about you as an organisation. Ambitious, perhaps even audacious targets will help create the impression of an organisation that is going places, that aims high and demands high standards from its staff and students in a way that comfortable, ‘middle-of-the-road’ benchmarks will not
This may sound odd following on immediately from a call to ‘Be ambitious’, perhaps even contradictory, but it is an important part of the balancing act that is required. For just as the purpose of the vision is to inspire and enthuse, it is equally important that this ambition is tempered by an underlying sense of realism. People need to believe that what is envisaged is actually achievable; otherwise there is no reason for them to believe or buy in to it. It is perfectly possible to be both ambitious and realistic and it is through successfully marrying these two forces that the best vision statements will be formed. Stating that you will become ‘ranked in the top 3 in the student satisfaction league table within 5 years’ may be both ambitious and realistic if you currently sit at number 7, but sound far less convincing if you currently reside at number 57
Albert Einstein once said that ‘imagination is more important than knowledge'.1 Of course, there is nothing wrong with saying that you will ‘deliver world-class learning and teaching standards but it is probably a safe bet that at least a dozen other institutions will be saying the same thing. Just as a commercial company may need to think creatively in order to identify gaps in the market, so too you may need to think imaginatively about what your vision is and how you describe it to help stand out from the crowd
Unlike with your mission statement, there is no pressure to pare your vision down to the bone. Of course you want to be concise (indeed many of the best examples of memorable visions to tend to be so), but there is no need to enforce an arbitrary limit on its length. Take as much space as you need to get your vision across
As with your mission statement it pays to avoid jargon, keep sentences short and to the point and use precise, uncluttered language. Otherwise you risk diluting or losing your message amongst the background ‘noise’
Though bearing in mind their different purposes, there should still be an element of continuity between your mission and vision statements, or at least some careful thought and discussion given as to why this is not the case. At the same time, the vision need not be constrained by the current remit of the mission. Perhaps the institution is keen to explore new areas in the future: to become the region’s conference venue of choice, for example, in which case this would need to be reflected in the mission statement in due course.
- 1 “What Life Means to Einstein : An Interview by George Sylvester Viereck” in The Saturday Evening Post Vol. 202 (26 October 1929), p. 117 http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Albert_Einstein