“Can’t see the forest for the trees,” C.S. Lewis famously said. This quote has taken other forms, “Can’t see the forest through the trees” is one. But the core meaning remains, when you look at a complex situation, it’s quite easy to get lost in the details and miss the solution to your challenge.
A Vision Challenge is when an organization cannot clearly understand its challenges within a larger context. This often happens when an organization becomes highly focused on a few parts of its organization. Quite often, corporations that are driven by their quarterly earnings report, do not take the time to discover the hidden constraints that are causing gaps and challenges to achieving their objectives. Western business mindset has been historically focused on quarter-to-quarter financial projections and earnings as the basis of success or failure. This mindset breeds a lack of vision for many leaders who feel forced to meet these intense demands.
Looking at your organization from a 35,000-foot elevation can reveal all of its parts and pieces, and this distance can assist you in identifying what is and isn’t in alignment with your vision. Of all significant foundations, vision is quite often the missing dimension that holds back an otherwise effective organization from excelling.
Perhaps your organization has excellent products and services, receiving high client praise, but over time they are not remixed into a total portfolio. When this happens, your organization’s central vision can become diffused. Without a doubt, a diffused set of messages can derail any successful company over time.
Organizations of all types, for-profit and non-profit, can achieve new market growth when the organization is aligned to one primary vision. Yet, when you ask business executives, “What is your strategic vision?” They often respond, “We have one, but it’s kind of fuzzy up and down our organization right now.” Or, “One of our problems is we have so many ideas we aren’t focused enough to work on just one.”
Our firm’s research of many organizations has discovered that many can state their vision, but it is treated as more of a slogan in a marketing function. The value of a vision is most often described through the programs or services it delivers and supports for its particular marketplace. All too often, vision is pushed into a tactical direction, such as, “what percentage of the market has this vision of ours delivered to us lately?”
As a result, many organizations do not receive the value that a well-integrated vision produces because they are too narrowly focused on results, not what drives them. Our further research of organizations has found that leaders in their field take a comprehensive integrative approach to implementing their vision and ensuring that it is well understood throughout their organization.
This sounds like an undeniable thing to do, doesn’t it. But frankly, it takes a continuing razor focus by management to ensure that their vision drives everything up and down their organization. It’s a practice well worth the effort.