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Why You Need to Set a Vision for Every Single Project

A project is a relatively short-term effort aimed at solving a problem or improving some aspect of your organization. So, why do you need to spend your time setting a vision for your project work?

The reason is simple.

We’ve all shared this experience – waiting for a meeting to start and listening to everyone lamenting the fact that they don’t understand the purpose of the work. Asking questions like “why are we even here? Is this another waste of time?”

Dedicating time to articulating the vision behind the work can refocus that damaging, distracting thinking and unite staff around shared goals. In fact, a vision can be used to excite staff about what they’re working on – igniting their creativity and driving their desire to collaborate. A vision provides inspiration and sparks ideas around what can be.

A vision can also inspire good decision-making. If everyone fully grasps what you’re working towards, they’re positioned to make effective decisions that won’t derail the effort, but rather guarantee it stays on course. Generally speaking, one must understand the vision to apply project management, business analysis or change management practices to a project. Basically, your partners on the project need to know what’s driving the work in order to be effective.

And as your vision will succinctly point to the benefits of the project in one aspirational statement, you can use it to gain buy-in from senior executives, internal and external partners and any stakeholder that may stand between you and the project’s success.

WHAT’s in a vision
Your organization is made up of people. Therefore, your vision must describe how the completion of your project will affect those people.

Think beyond the details of what you are doing to why you are doing it and who it will impact. Move from “we are going to offer a new piece of technology” to “we will reduce customer frustration by providing staff with a new tool that helps them solve customer’s issues, the first time they contact us.”

Your vision statement should be aspirational, brief, and easy-to-understand by laymen’s standards. Since we are talking about a finite project with a start and end time, the project’s vision should be achievable, while also inspiring at a high level. At the end of the day, you want to point back to successfully accomplishing what you set out to do.

WHO shares the vision
A vision is supposed to motivate those working on the project and engage those impacted by it. Who would you want to hear that type of visionary message from?

Most would say a leader in the organization with whom they feel some connection. Depending on the scope of the work, others may say a trusted peer who can empathetically share the vision with his or her co-workers.

HOW to share your vision
A vision cannot be shared in isolation. Context is key when describing an effort to change something within your organization.

While the vision should be the cornerstone of your communications about what’s to come, and repeated consistently, there are other factors to consider. Think about how this project aligns with the organization’s mission or strategic plan, how and when changes will occur and staff will find out about them, and most importantly, make sure the messenger is equipped to share details about the project’s direct impacts on staff.

It’s important that the vision acts as a constant reminder and driver of project work. Consider starting meetings with a reference to the vision and placing the vision statement in written materials like reports, presentations and meeting notes. Make sure that it is easy for team members to visualize what’s driving their work.

Check out my article titled, Talking About Change, for more on this topic.

Emily Yahr is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

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