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  • Writer's pictureJunaid Bedford

Co-creating Shared Vision

Updated: Feb 16, 2021


It is a challenging task to build a shared vision amongst stakeholders, yet it is so crucial for executing effectively on strategy (Lafley & Martin, 2013). To execute effectively on one’s strategy, building a shared vision becomes a crucial task at all levels: project-portfolio level, project level, and team level. It becomes important for each member in the organization to have a clear understanding of the “big picture” purpose that is being pursued by the organization so that granular-level tasks may be organized, prioritized, and implemented effectively and efficiently in pursuit of that strategy.


With a shared vision in place that is clear and concise, the organization sets itself up for maximum agility. Each member, at any level of the organization, is now capable of effective self-organizing and collaborating in pursuit of a shared vision. As Peter Senge said: few, if any, forces in human affairs are as powerful as shared vision (Senge, 2006, p. 191).

To build a shared vision amongst stakeholders, it becomes necessary to get to grips with a human condition that makes humanity so profoundly interesting: people interpret the same thing differently. One man’s freedom-fighting could be another man’s terrorism, according to Checkland (1999). In a software development context, when developing a new product, each stakeholder brings a unique point of view (POV) to bear on the same problem: a CEO might bring a business-strategy POV to the situation of concern, a product manager might bring a marketing-product-fit POV, a software architect might bring an architectural-platform POV, and a salesperson a market-launch-and-sales-volume POV. Each perspective is unique, each perspective is necessary, and each perspective offers insight for developing a new product. These perspectives though need to form the ‘fuel’, or the creative tension, for creating a compelling shared vision that all stakeholders can live with, and should not be a source of friction within the organization. Building a shared vision is not possible without ‘surfacing’ the perspectives of all stakeholders involved, in particular, the key decision makers. That which stakeholders take for granted as being true needs to be brought into the open vision of the collective. Stakeholders need to know how they, and others, are thinking and why they are thinking the way they are thinking. When perspectives are surfaced into the open vision of the collective, the conditions are created to ask the right questions and to test the validity of the assumptions at play. A CEO might question the viability of a new product and may initially attempt to stop that product's development, but a marketing executive might be able to motivate why the viability and feasibility of that product are desirable for executing on company-level strategy, which in turn might change the perspective of the CEO. By listening with an appreciative ear and questioning the assumptions at play, it becomes possible to build a shared vision that will become part of the collective memory of the whole. Building a shared vision is an ongoing negotiation between stakeholders (particularly key decision makers) until an accommodation is arrived at on a collective level. When negotiating takes place on a collective level, and assumptions are surfaced into the open vision of the collective, the resulting transparency enables any constraints at hand to be 'viewed' by all stakeholders in real-time, creating the conditions to co-create a shared vision that might even chart a new future for the organization, for the project, or for the team. The power of a shared vision is the enablement of effective and efficient self-organizing and collaborating. With a shared vision in place at any level of an organization, members are able to engage in purposeful activity.

REFERENCES

Checkland, P. (1999). Systems Thinking, systems practice: Includes a thirty-year retrospective. [Kindle iPad version] Chichester, West Sussex: John Wiley and Sons Ltd. Lafley, A. G., & Martin, R. L. (2013). Playing to win: How strategy really works. [Kindle iPad version] Boston, MA: Harvard Business Review Press. Retrieved from http://www.amazon.com Senge, P. M. (2006). The fifth discipline: The art and practice of the learning organization. [Kindle iPad version] London: Random House Business Books. Retrieved from http://www.amazon.com

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