Culture: Mission – Vision

by Ron Potter

As we continue our look at great cultures, we’ve seen the four quadrants of Mission, Adaptability, Involvement, and Consistency.

We’re now looking at each quadrant in more detail.  In our last blog post we identified the three elements in the Mission quadrant as

  • Vision
  • Goals and Objectives
  • Strategic Direction and Intent.

In today’s post and the next two to follow, I’m going to look at each of those elements in more detail.

Today we’ll look at Vision.  As the Denison Culture Survey digs deeper into Vision, it tends to focus on two key aspects of Vision

  • The depth and motivating elements of the Vision
  • How the Leaders respond and react to the Vision

One of the questions in this arena is a two-part question of how deeply the vision has been shared and is it clear what the organization will look like in the future.

We’ve touched on the depth of sharing earlier but it’s worth going over again here.

I was working with a Fortune 50 company.  I had spent most of my time with the ranks just below the C Suite level.  At that level, they were very focused on the elements that would help them continue to flourish as one of the top companies in the world.  They were developing stories, creating videos and building the elements into their software.  They seemed to have a vision of their future.

Then I was introduced to one of the C Suite members and listened to him tell of the great vision that the CEO and other C Suite leaders were working on.  When I asked about all of the vision pieces I had recently been working on with others down in his organization he looked at me curiously and said: “I haven’t heard any of those stories but I’m excited about our vision.”

The leaders were talking about different things than the rest of the organization.   The did not have a shared vision!  The vision must be the same vision no matter where in the organization it is being expressed.


Is the vision motivating?  This is the second part of the vision question.  There may be a vision that is unified and deep in the organization but if it doesn’t inspire people to put forth the effort to reach the vision, it’s not worth the ink it took to print it.

“Our vision is to be one of the top recognized companies in our slice of the market place!”  Not really inspiring.  I’ve occasionally tried a trick with some of my clients.  I’ll take their vision word-for-word but put one of their competitor’s names in instead.  When it’s obvious that it could apply to either company equally, it’s not inspiring.  What makes you unique?  What makes you different?  What is something only you can accomplish?  That’s inspiring.

Leaders Response and Reaction

The other questions in this section relate to the leaders’ ability to execute the vision.    Leaders often talk in terms of the long-term but make decisions that obviously have short term (read quarterly) impact.  They may be trying to satisfy the investors and market by hitting these quarterly goals but it hampers the companies to reach their vision.

I know that some companies have elected not to report quarterly.  I wish more companies would do the same.  It helps build a better vision and long-term health for the company.


Vision must penetrate deep into the organization and it needs to be motivating and inspiring as well.

Leaders must walk-the-talk.  It does no good to talk a good vision then make decisions to hit quarterly goals that will hamper the companies ability to reach that vision.

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