(An abstract from The Fifth Discipline, Peter M. Senge)
Visions are exhilarating. They create the spark, the excitement that lifts an organization out of mundane. In a corporation, a shared vision change’s people relationship with the company. It is no longer “their company”, it becomes “our company”.
A shared vision is the first step in allowing people who mistrusted each other to begin to work together. It creates a common identity. In fact, an organization’s shared sense of purpose, vision, and operating values establish the most basic level of commonality.
Shared visions compel courage so naturally that people don’t even realize the extent of their courage. Courage is simply doing whatever is needed in pursuit of the vision. In 1961, John Kennedy articulated a vision that had been emerging for many years among leaders within America’s space program: to have a man on the moon by the end of the decade. This led to countless acts of courage and daring.
You cannot have a learning organization without shared vision. Without a pull toward some goal which people truly want to achieve, the forces in support of the status quo can be overwhelming. Vision establishes an overarching goal. The loftiness of the target compels new ways of thinking and acting.
A shared vision also provides a rudder to keep the learning process on courses when stresses develop. Learning can be difficult, even painful. With a shared vision, we are more likely to expose our ways of thinking, give up deeply held views, and recognize personal and organizational shortcomings. All that trouble seems trivial compared with the importance of what we are trying to create. In the absence of a great dream, pettiness prevails.