Using A Shared Vision of the Future as a Means for Transformational Change

Note: this is a research excerpt from Roxanne Nicolussi’s “Bigger Thinking for Smaller Enterprises”, published in 2017 and licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Let’s talk about a shared vision of the future as a means for transformational change.

Kotter’s (2007) 8 stage transformation process can be found below. Kotter explains that a successful transformation effort is guided by “a picture of the future that is relatively easy to communicate and appeals to customers, stockholders, and employees” (2007). Further, it is explained that a vision goes beyond the numbers that are typically found in five-year plans — both in longevity and qualitative specificity.

“A vision says something that helps clarify the direction in which an organization needs to move. It is usually a bit blurry, at least initially. But after the coalition works at it for three or five or even 12 months, something much better emerges through their tough analytical thinking and a little dreaming. Eventually, a strategy for achieving that vision is also developed.” — Kotter, 2007

A shared vision is also one of the five disciplines, as seen in Figure 3, identified by Peter Senge as necessary to create a learning organization. A learning organization encourages and facilitates learning throughout all levels of an organization in order to enable it to adapt and transform itself to function effectively in a complex and dynamic world (Senge 1994).

Other researchers have also found the importance of a guiding vision to lead transformational change. Research on change and its implementation is rooted in the early work of Lewin (1947) wherein they conceptualized the succession of phases they called unfreezing, moving, and freezing. Lewin’s work was built on by Judson (1991), Kotter (1995), and Galpin (1996), who described multiphase models for implementing change. Galpin (1996) stressed the importance of understanding an organization’s culture to most effectively implement change. His model comprises nine wedges which include: developing and disseminating a vision of a planned change and measuring, reinforcing, and refining the change. Judson’s model comprises five phases which include: analyzing and planning the change, communicating the change, and gaining acceptance of new behaviours (1991). The creation of an effectively communicated end goal was common across all three models. Similarly, empowering staff and positive reinforcement throughout the process were identified as important to ensure positive implementation.

Without a sound vision, changes do not add up in a meaningful way — they will not be transformational or part of a bigger picture.

How might one encourage an organization to develop a shared vision?

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