Vision And Execution Are Not Sequential

Mar 11, 2015 3 Min Read
Vision And Execution

One of the biggest mistakes leaders make is moving from vision to execution as though it’s a linear process. The widely held assumption is they are two ends of a spectrum: Vision is about planning. Execution is about action.

The truth is: Vision requires action to be clarified and refined, and execution requires reflection to be effective.

It’s not linear

Most leadership experts subscribe to some variation of these five steps.

1. Linear

The model is logical. But in reality, most of us don’t live our lives that way, and most leaders are not rigorous about it, because life doesn’t wait while you are planning. No wonder so many leaders have little patience with the first steps.

When you think of these steps as circular, it gives a better sense of their ongoing repeating nature.

2. Circular

A reality check will verify that all of these steps are important. Anyone who has worked with a leader who acts randomly ('ready-fire-aim') knows what a mess they leave behind. And leaders who avoid taking action can be just as frustrating.

But this approach is still sequential and doesn’t match up with the reality of our messy lives and organisations. It’s simply not accurate to represent a dynamic, interrelated process as a series of sequential steps.

Try spinning the circles

Try thinking of the circle as dynamic – spinning so fast that the colors turn white. You can’t see the individual parts, even though you know they’re there.

While working on one step, you pay attention to how that step impacts all the other steps. Which steps you need to focus on at any point are determined by feedback from your environment and your own experience, instead of a chart.

This is a way of working and doing business, not simply a way to approach projects. And since it is ongoing, 'evaluate and adjust' is no longer a step. It becomes integrated into daily life and the way you approach work.

By acknowledging reality is far from linear and assuming a dynamic approach, you are freed to work on the right steps at the right time. And both your vision and execution will become smarter, easier, faster, and smoother.

3 guidelines for a dynamic approach

1. Do vision and execution simultaneously

Don’t separate vision and execution as though they are two different things. As you develop your vision, no matter what stage your vision is in, continually align your actions with it. And don’t set your vision aside once you’ve moved to another step.

You don’t have to wait for your vision to be 'finished' before you start. Build it as you envision it. Learn and adjust as you go.

2. Think of your vision as unbaked clay

Allow your vision to be reshaped based on new information, feedback, what you have learned and changes in your environment. Don’t assume that you 'own' the vision. Allow others to influence its shape – to put their thumbprints on it.

As you move closer to your vision, you will understand it more deeply. It might look like it has changed on the outside, but the essence will remain the same.

3. Be fluid

When working on any of these steps, give it your full attention and strive for excellence, but always consider the big picture and how what you are doing affects the other steps. Be ready to move fluidly among the steps as it makes sense.

Although these are described as distinct steps, in reality they are not separate. This is simply a model to help you organise your thinking, and it not reality.

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Jesse Lyn is a business consultant and co-author with Ken Blanchard of the international bestseller Full Steam Ahead: Unleash the Power of Vision. She is the founder of Seapoint Center for Collaborative Leadership, which hosts her award winning leadership blog.

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