Many managers misunderstand or downplay the importance of communicating their vision, believing that as long as they themselves know where the organization is going that is sufficient.
As it pertains to procurement it is even more important in today’s environment, with all the material shortage issues in the supply chain, to keep the organization abreast of continuous changes relating to goods and services.
There are several reasons why not communicating these supply chain concerns is wrong. First, a failure to communicate the vision leads to confusion as to the purpose and may lead many to conclude incorrectly that management has no idea where it is trying to go.
Second, unless the vision is communicated to the organization, it is impossible for staff to exercise their own initiative, so as to further the attainment of the desired goal.
Third, misunderstanding as to the direction in which the organization is going may lead individuals to work against each other and even to work counter to the attainment of the desired objective.
Forth, communication is important in order to prevent the dissemination of inaccurate information, for Churchill observed: “When the eagles are silent, the parrots begin to jabber.”
Communication of the vision involves both identifying the target and explaining the reasons for its selection.
People are not lemmings. They will not blindly follow any leader unless he or she has won their confidence and often they will not willingly support an objective unless they have bought into it as well.
The sale of management and the sale of the vision are related, but they are not the same thing. It is possible for management to enjoy support, even though the vision does not; conversely, while the vision may seem compelling, the management itself may not command support.
Thus, the senior leadership must have sufficient salesmanship both to convince others of the ability of leadership to lead and to persuade staff that his or her ideas are something they need or want.
People must be brought to understand why the vision was selected, why it is thought to be attainable and how the organization plans to go about attaining it. Failure to get the message across risks building dissension.
The vision also needs to be consistently restated and reinforced.
It is sometimes said that the secret of effective teaching is redundancy, repeating yourself and above all saying things twice.
This is certainly true for leadership when identifying the mission. Repetition makes clear that the goal remains the same and emphasizes its importance.
Since different people learn in different ways, the vision may need to be expressed using a variety of different techniques, visual as well as auditory in order for all members of the organization to perceive and understand it.
Common expression of the vision at all levels of management within an organization makes clear the organization as a whole is committed to its implementation. Thus, the chief execution, middle management and even shop floor supervision all need to be seen to be singing from the same sheet.
The expression of vision is not the same thing as mouthing clichés or otherwise expressing ideas with which everyone agrees. It is the ability to present a clear world picture in such a way as to win over support for it.
To set a leader apart from others, the vision must possess something of the character of a breakthrough in consciousness or understanding. To get attention, it must transmit a creative shock that changes the listener’s basic assumptions regarding the organization and its environment.
The more creative energy that a vision conveys, the greater its impact. Creative energy is necessary to overcome the natural forces of inertia that prevent an organization from changing.
It must compel the listener to leave behind his or her mental and personal emotional comfort zone.
Stephen Bauld is a government procurement expert and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Some of his columns may contain excerpts from The Municipal Procurement Handbook published by Butterworths.