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Why Alice was wrong!

31 Jan 2011

Looking forward

‘Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?’ ‘That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,’ said the Cat.  ‘I don’t much care where –‘ said Alice.  ‘Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,’ said the Cat.  ‘–so long as I get somewhere,’ Alice added as an explanation.

Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

It never ceases to surprise me how many organisations exist without any clear or guiding vision and strategy to achieve it.  It is also not entirely unusual to come across organisations that recognise a need to change and go to the extent of outlining a strategy to take them somewhere whether that is in line with a vision or not just so that they appear to be doing something and in control of their destiny.  Without appropriate thought though they run the risk of being no better off than Alice, heading somewhere other than here.  This is rarely going to work as an effective strategy though and it is a brave (pick your own adjective) leader that will select this to go forward.  More likely it is the strategy of the indecisive – ‘let’s just see what happens.’  Unless where you are is a really bad place to be and absolutely anything is better this issue deserves more care and attention!
Whenever there is change afoot checking the change for alignment with the organisation’s vision is essential. Inconsistencies will be picked up on by staff and can lead to real problems through poor understanding and inevitably inadequate communications.  Forming a worthwhile strategy for an unclear vision is nigh on impossible.  I was intrigued by a challenge I came across a while ago to write a mission statement in 8 words and the I think that the same challenge can be extended to writing an unambiguous vision statement that gives clear direction.  Some great companies have some awfully badly expressed visions, little better than Alice’s – Just get me somewhere…some are better but most could do with a tweak to make them crisper, here are some examples, saving the best ones for the end…15 words seems like a reasonable goal what do you think?

Coca Cola

To achieve sustainable growth, we have established a vision with clear goals.

Profit: Maximizing return to shareowners while being mindful of our overall responsibilities.
People: Being a great place to work where people are inspired to be the best they can be.
Portfolio: Bringing to the world a portfolio of beverage brands that anticipate and satisfy peoples; desires and needs.
Partners: Nurturing a winning network of partners and building mutual loyalty.
Planet: Being a responsible global citizen that makes a difference.

Southwest Airlines (56 words)

Our vision is to expand our locations both domestic and overseas by being the largest and most profitable airline company to achieve both short and long-haul carriers efficiently and with low cost. Also to be an airline carrier that has the most productive workforce to guarantee the best flight possible for each and every passenger.

Budweiser (26 words, lots better as 1st 14)

“Through all of our products, services and relationships, we will add to life’s enjoyment.

Enrich and entertain a global audience

Deliver superior returns to our shareholders”

Heinz  (13 words)


Amazon (29 words – maybe better without 1st 10)

“Our vision is to be earth’s most customer centric company; to build a place where people can come to find and discover anything they might want to buy online.”

Nike (11 words excluding note)

“To bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete*
in the world”

* If you have a body, you are an athlete.

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