The world continously evolves and changing exponentially (see Change is inevitable ….). Not long ago the pace in companies was much slower. Propagation of information took time and the production of goods was typically labor intensive. The main challenge was organizing processes and workforce efficiently towards maximal outcome. These mechanisms which used to work well in the industrial age increasingly fail to produce beneficial effect in the information age.
Today’s environment routine work is automated and commoditised whereas engagement and creativity have become major assets of organizations. Great organizations have a shared goal, a state they want to reach. This reason d’etre has become more important than ever before. The vision is the mechanism to create a pull into one direction. A practical guide for creating plans, setting goals and objectives, making decisions, and coordinating and evaluating the work on any project, large or small. It is the source for motivation within the organization.
A vision captures clear and inspirational long-term desired change(s) resulting from an organization or program’s work. The vision is important – it expresses why the organization is required and provides guidance and direction to all who engage.
- Alzheimer’s Association: A world without Alzheimer’s
It is obvious that the people engage here want to contribute to a world free of Alzheimer. They can do this however as they want as the vision does not say what has to be done. Everybody can contribute with his skills and abilities. People will have different perceptions on the importance of this organization, but nobody will be against this vision.
You may now say that this is just a simple and straight forward special case. Indeed – it should all start with a ‘why?’ which leads to people sharing the idea forming an organization. The vision is what makes this organization special and different from others.
Below is a list of vision statements of some other organizations
- We create the technology to connect the world
- We believe in what people make possible
- Organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.
- To be Earth’s most customer-centric company, where customers can find and discover anything they might want to buy online
You engage and be part of only if you agree with the vision . Shaping a vision is not easy – it requires creativity, setting standards and enforcing clear decisions. People may like it, dislike it or find it irrelevant.
Many incumbent companies in the financial sector started with a clear vision. Some of these goals were reached and the companies just continued to do what they are doing. They just repeat what they have done in a better and more efficient way. Without having a vision it becomes difficult to be innovative and cost efficiency starts to become the main goal.
As a little exercise look at the web pages from incumbent organizations in the financial services industry and try to find their vision statement. It’s interesting that only a subset of the companies have one.
- XYZ’s vision is to be recognized as a leading manufacturer of protective materials for high reliability applications throughout the world.
- XYZ’s main commitment is to provide its customers with the best solutions possible
These two examples sound really trivial and the vision can be used for most types of organizations. Or is there a company who does not want to be reliable or provide the best solutions? This lack of purpose is dangerous – as there are many organizations with the same aim there is no evident reason, why this specific one is really required.
This lack of a vision is also dangerous as the new organizations all have vision – typically not talking about themselves but about the state they want to reach.
- We believe everyone should be able to enjoy a healthy financial life.
- We’re building this bank for you. We’ll learn and adapt to you, celebrating your individuality in every way.
- By solving your problems, treating you fairly and being totally transparent, we believe that we can make banking better.
Compare the examples – which one is more appealing? Where would you like to engage as an employee or become a client? The incumbents benefit from their history as people are quite slow in changing their habits. But “time to change” is not the factor we should rely on in this “game” as when change happens it will be instantaneous.
Many incumbents relax on the fact that they are today systemic relevant – but the system could change and the relevance vanish with it. It feels much better to have a clear vision of the future than to rely on the past.
So it’s time for many incumbent organizations in financial services to hit refresh …