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  • Writer's pictureJunaid Bedford

The Importance of Shared Vision

Updated: Feb 16, 2021


Late in his career, the psychologist Abraham Maslow studied high performance teams and observed that their most striking characteristic was shared vision and purpose (Maslow as cited in Senge, 2006, p. 194).

Santos, Uitdewilligen, & Passos (2015) studied 161 teams consisting of 735 individuals and found that shared understanding reduces intra-group conflict and improves team performance and satisfaction. Jeff Conklin founder and president of the CogNexus group pointed out that “...if you think about where teams or projects have failed, you often realize that what was missing was a shared understanding about what the process was going to be, or what the fundamental problem was to begin with, or the dimensions of the problem” (Christensen & Conklin, 2013). Building a shared vision is not the prerogative of C-suite executives and senior management alone at the portfolio level. Rather, a shared vision should be built by members of a team at all levels, including the project level. The global vision of the organization provides the context to tailor a specific vision at a project level. With the global vision as a guide, members of a team at the project level are able to construct a tailored vision specific to their context. Coming together to build a shared vision creates the conditions for members of a team to take input from their personal visions in order to build a shared vision of an aspirational future that will inspire commitment to the project. Commitment is driven by the idea that if one partakes in creating something, one will then care about it. Once a shared vision that inspires commitment is built, it is important that its aspirational component governs its managerial components: the situation of concern, the purpose being pursued, the roles, responsibilities, and accountabilities of each member in the team. A team is not a team until all members of that team share the same vision, as Flores (2012) put it:

...To share an explicitly declared mission and to coordinate action to fulfill it is a radically different understanding of team than a team as a group of individuals side by side pursuing some common unarticulated or implicit purpose. The possibility of a team is called forth by the declaration of a mission. It is this explicit declaration that brings people together once they commit to share it in action” (Flores, 2012, p. 76).

Shared vision gives life to a team. It is the spirit of a team. It gives coherence to the diverse activities of a team (Senge, 2006, p. 192) and it is the ‘glue’ that binds the members of a team into a purposeful collective that can act in unison to execute strategy. With a shared vision in place at the project level, members of a team can self-organize and collaborate to realize it. Without a shared vision in place at the project level members of a team cannot coordinate their actions in a coherent way. Furthermore, they cannot manage their commitments to one another in an effective and efficient way. This results in miscoordination and waste. And ultimately the customer suffers.

REFERENCES

Christensen, K., & Conklin, J. (2013). Building shared understanding of wicked problems. In R. Martin & K. Christensen (Eds.), Rotman on design: The best on Design Thinking from Rotman magazine. [Kindle iPad version] Toronto, ON: University of Toronto Press. Retrieved from http://www.amazon.com Flores, F. (2012). Conversations for action and collected essays: Instilling a culture of commitment in working relationships. (M. Flores Letelier, Ed.). [Kindle iPad version] North Charleston, SC: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform. Santos, C. M., Uitdewilligen, S., & Passos, A. M. (2015). Why is your team more creative than mine? The influence of shared mental models on intra-group conflict, team creativity and effectiveness. Creativity and Innovation Management, 24(4), 645–658. http://doi.org/10.1111/caim.12129 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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