Envisioning Your Future

Here is an interesting question for you: How can you “envision your future” if you are not a visual learner?

At a recent conference where the theme of “Creating Our Tomorrow” overlaid every keynote and breakout session, it became clear that creating a personal vision statement is a critical component to achieving success both personally and as an organization. If you can visualize your future you will have a better chance of achieving it. But, since a majority of the methods for creating a vision statement are based on actual visualization techniques, it was often difficult for auditory attendees (such as myself) to get good results from the processes. When asked to close my eyes and “picture the future I desired,” no matter how hard I tried I just could not create the requested Steven Spielberg-like production.

So then, how can you develop a personal vision statement if you are not a visual learner? As an auditory, you learn and retain information, not through pictures or images, but rather through the spoken word. Whenever you are asked to close your eyes and begin a visualization process, channel your attention instead into listening to your inner voice. Recording your thoughts on tape is another visioning method highly recommended for auditory learners. Use a micro-cassette recorder to capture your thoughts in a stream of consciousness process. Use the same criteria as you would in a visualization process by vividly describing your future while avoiding idealistic or vague statements. Be clear and concise in describing what you would be doing or accomplishing in your most successful state.

Play the tape back, and write out your key goals and expectations, making special note of any recurring themes.

As a tactual or kinesthetic learner, you may be even more challenged with the visioning process. For you, creating your future is linked directly to action. Writing, storytelling, brainstorming and collaborating with others in small groups will help you create your vision statement.

A vision statement should also be developed by using all five of one’s senses, filling it with as much detail as possible to bring it to life. Developing a vision statement empowers you to take responsibility for your life. We become more productive, focused, and hopeful as we realize that we have the capacity within ourselves to create professional and personal lives that are meaningful and fulfilled.

Creating an organizational vision statement:

As a leader/manager it is important to know that many of your employees do not relate to a standard vision statement at any level… individual or organizational. For non-visual employees, creating the future is often accomplished through direct involvement with others. They want dialogue and need it to clarify their thoughts. They will relate more to total involvement in the visioning (or any other planning) process through conversation, brainstorming, group meetings or phone and video conferencing.

To create a vision statement that really means something to everyone in the organization:

  • Work with as large and diverse a group as possible.
  • Use a variety of creative tools and processes to accommodate all of the learning styles (brainstorming, audio and videotaping, writing, visualization, storytelling, etc.).
  • Ask participants what the organization would be doing as well as what it would look like 5 years from now if it were wildly successful (put responses on post it notes).
  • Group responses into primary themes.
  • Determine which elements are “drivers” and which are the outcomes of other actions.
  • Finalize the wording by using powerful, simple language.

When the organization’s vision statement becomes a part of the culture and everyday conversation and language, you will know you have succeeded in creating your tomorrow today – for all of your employees.

To Your Success!

Jack Wolf

What’s the Problem?

First Things First

Studies show that over 75% of all business improvement initiatives produce an unsuccessful result. One of the main causes of improvement failure is that the problem the business tried to solve was the wrong problem, or not the root-cause problem. A very old and valid axiom is: “A problem well defined is a problem half-solved.” The key to dealing with a problem is to define it, and define it clearly, before making any attempt at solution.

Problem Definition

Problems range from the complex to the simple; from the clearly evident to the completely unknown. Defining the problem is a matter of collecting all known information related to the situation and using it effectively. Uncovering certain information may cause you to change course and redefine the problem as you go along. Define the boundaries and limits related to the situation. If there are too many boundaries, perhaps they are part of the problem.

It is also important to identify and then gather information from other key players and decision makers. Be aware of any bias or prejudice that may affect the opinions of others. List any assumptions that you have made but be ready to discard them if necessary.

These guidelines are not rigid rules to follow but will give you a framework from which to begin the process. First, find the answers to some basic questions:

  • Is it a new problem?
  • Is it the root-cause problem or the symptom of a larger issue?
  • Who are the key players involved in this problem?
  • What do they know that I don’t know?
  • What limits and boundaries exist to solving this problem?
  • What are the consequences of ignoring the problem?
  • Does the problem need to be resolved immediately?
  • What are the rewards for resolving it?
  • Can I solve it alone or will I need help?
  • If I need help, who can provide it?
  • What conditions must be met to solve the problem (what is the desired end result)?
  • Will these conditions or results create new problems?

When you are searching for ways to improve performance, it may not be evident what the problems or limits actually are.

When the “problem” is simply that you want to improve your (or someone else’s) results, a Situation, Problem, Cause and Implication question format can uncover connected areas where improvements can be made. Ask, for example:

(Situation) What are your top three goals at this time?

(Problem) What are the three biggest challenges facing you right now?

(Cause) What do you attribute that to?

(Implication) What impact has this situation had on your productivity?

Solutions Finding

Brainstorm, be open to unknown possibilities and consider all your alternatives. Evaluate all the suggested solutions without prejudice. It may also happen that a solution may not work due to existing limits and boundaries, such as money, ingrained attitudes (people won’t or can’t accept the solution) or it will cause a new problem.

The Situation, Problem, Cause and Implication question format is concluded by asking for specific actions. Answers to these Action questions usually provide good starting points from which change can occur.

(Action) What 3 actions (by the company, by you, by others) would help correct this situation?

(Action) What can you do to make this happen?

(Action) What is the optimum scenario for you to achieve your three goals?

When working with a problem that affects you personally, remember that it’s not the problem or challenge that is the greatest issue… it’s how you address the situation, prepare a response or solution and then take action to reduce the impact of the problem. As Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “We are only as great as the smallest thing that upsets us.”