“You run a tight ship – you’re just not going anywhere”

Have you got the “vision” thing? I’m amazed by how popular this word has become, and how some people are miraculously endowed with an excess of it and others are cast into outer darkness because they have none of it. I’m also amazed at how quickly it was absorbed by the corporate strategists, and how confusing Arts Funding applications became when I had to say what the vision was, followed by the mission and followed by the objectives – all of which were different, but of course had to be related.

And, of course, there is some disagreement over the differences between vision and mission, and some mission statements are in fact vision statements, and don’t forget the paragraphs (bullet pointed) on values and goals.

Despite the bureaucratic slight of hand, the reality is that many careers and organizations fail because of a misunderstanding, and consequent lack, of vision; they  confuse it with mission, objectives and even tasks.

Imagine its your 75th birthday, or your last day on a particular job. Imagine that a great surprise party has been planned for you. Everyone’s there – colleagues, family, friends. Now somebody has to make a speech about you. What are they going to say? Because what they say about you, about the kind of person you are, about the problems you faced and how you overcame them, about what you achieved and how you achieved it will tell you all you need to know about your vision, your, mission, your goals and your values.

And ask yourself who gives the speech – because you’ll learn something from that too.

Everybody imagines greatness, everybody wants to change the world, to make something better.

And that’s Vision. Everybody has it. Some of us don’t like looking at it because it can be scary.  But if you don’t look at it you’ll never know what direction to go in.

Can an Artist or an Arts or Cultural Organisation survive without vision? Maybe. But the absence of vision is the hamster wheel, or as a colleague once phrased it “one years experience seven times”.

Vision can also be constrained by environmental factors (depressed economy, Arts Council Funding cuts, “the audience don’t get it”, “it’s a closed shop”, etc.). But if we succumb to these factors then we create a self-fulfilling prophecy of non-development and struggle, even of creative introversion.

Compromise on Execution and Strategy by all means. Never compromise your vision.

For those of you like lists, check out this list of 30 Top Vision Statements – useful and funny, what could be wrong with that?

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