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Transcript: Developing a corporate vision with meaning

KARL MOORE – This is Karl Moore of the Desautels Faculty of Management at McGill University, Talking Management for The Globe and Mail. Today I am delighted to speak to Jone Pearce who is a leadership professor at the University of California, Irvine.

Good morning, Jone.

JONE PEARCE – Good morning, Karl.

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KM – You have studied a very interesting topic of how do you develop effective vision. This is something that every CEO wants to have – a good vision for his or her organization. So what advice would you have for executives on developing effective vision?

JP – What can CEOs do that can better improve their vision? We all know that a good vision is better than no vision, or bad vision – people can have a bad vision and get everyone fired up and moving, but obviously in the wrong direction. So one of the things I am interested in right now is what seems to characterize a good vision?

What seems to matter most is that people seem to have a good vision if the vision is actually based on what they are doing – it has to be realistic. If you are a health services company the vision might be based on making people well and saving lives. If you are in manufacturing it might be based on the product but the most successful ones both appeal to emotion, appeal to something of a higher value, then we are just going to meet our profit target this quarter – no one is going to get to excited by that unless they own the shares.

It has to appeal to emotion and it has to appeal to a higher value. Something that is doing good for others, whether that is a better product or making people happy. For example, IKEA has their vision that they "make life better" – they don't just sell furniture, they make life better. So things about that make a difference – an emotional appeal connected to what you actually do, so it is not something absurd, and also based in the actual work itself so it has some linkage.

KM – When you look at vision and mission statements, like IKEA "making life better," I would be hard pressed to think of an organization who couldn't use that as their vision. What differentiates that from somebody else's vision?

JP – One of the things that differentiates it is making it real – meaning that the executives talk about it all the time and they link things to it. So everybody has goals, standards, things that they need to meet on a more daily, weekly, quarterly basis, but linking those to the vision rather then what I would call an empty vision where people might have these platitudes put on a card that you put in your pocket but then all the actions and the rest of the talk have no connection to it. So they have to be connected.

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