In-house Issues: The Vision Vacuum

I was listening to an audiobook on leadership during my scenic commute up Route 1 the other day when the topic of vision and passion was broached. It was a V8 moment. Slapping myself on the forehead, I realized I had yet again forgotten a basic leadership and management tenet.

When any of us creatives walk into the potentially inspiration killing corporate environment without a clear vision of where we want to be and the passion that accompanies a truly audacious vision, we unintentionally set the stage for bad things to happen.

Bad thing number 1 – The forest fire conundrum. Almost every in-house designer I’ve ever spoken with desperately relates that they don’t have time to be strategic because they’re all too busy putting out fires. Yet, ironically, if they were more strategic (read creating a vision) they would tackle many of the issues that cause the fires they’re constantly putting out.

Stop thinking of this as an either/or proposition. You can do both, even if you can only set aside a few hours a week. It doesn’t take that long to establish the vision, though implementing it will take time. If it’s powerful enough, you may even inspire yourself and your co-workers to put in some lunch and evening hours.

Bad thing number 2 – Cynicism and resignation. Without a vision there are no exciting goals and without exciting goals, there’s no inspiring sense of purpose. There have been studies that show that a sense of purpose can trump salary as the primary motivator for individuals at their place of work. This fact alone makes creating a vision an essential act.

Bad thing number 3 – Lack of credibility with clients and upper management. A powerful vision is an essential ingredient for a strategic team. Without it, a group is just a reactive blob of underutilized gray matter and atrophying talent. Clients and upper management know this, value strategic thinking and look for organizations that are committed to it structurally and in practice – that’s why agencies and design firms make such a point of marketing themselves in that way (and why clients choose them over their in-house teams). No vision – no juicy projects.

Bad thing number 4 – No career path. It’s no secret that most companies lack a compelling career path for their creative teams. This means you have to make the path by expanding the reach of your department into bigger more strategic responsibilities and functions. What’s the necessary precursor to this expansion? Why it’s the creation of that vision I’ve been talking about…

Bad thing number 5 – Confusion. Without a vision no one knows what he or she should be doing, why he or she is doing it and how it should be done. A vision provides the underpinnings of a focused successful team.

It should be obvious, given the rationale above, that creating a vision for you and your team should be one of your top priorities. It’s not an easy undertaking but the rewards will surely justify the effort.

2 thoughts on “In-house Issues: The Vision Vacuum

  1. Bryan Bechtold

    I would be interested to learn your definition of vision, and how to communicate it to the rest of organization in a practical way.

    Thanks,

    BB

    1. Andy Epstein

      The definition provided by the dictionary comes pretty close to the mark, “the ability to think about or plan the future with imagination or wisdom…a mental image of what the future will or could be like…”

      To be more specific, though, a vision would be a goal or group of goals you set for yourself and your team. For example, let’s say your team only provides print design and you want to expand to other areas of design. You could craft a vision that says, “Our team will provide web design for our company”, or you could be REALLY bold and say, “Our team will provide guidance and services on ALL the design needs of our company”. Now the key here is that, once you’ve established your goal/vision, you’ll need to create strategies and tactics on how you’ll realize your vision (that’s the hard part).

      I would make sure to review your proposed vision with your manager and clients to make sure they’re aligned with your goals and will support you in achieving them by providing needed resources and advice. This is best accomplished with in-person meetings where you can convey your passion for the vision, the rationale behind it and get (and manage) their feedback. It’s then essential to keep these key stakeholders informed of your progress in making your vision a reality.

      Hope this helps.

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