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Your vision is what you want your world to look like in the future.

Businesses or projects are created to change the future by creating a product or filling a service gap. Getting clear about what you want to change helps you to plan your business, run your business, and when the time comes, change or shift your business.

As a founder or a business owner you might be very clear about your vision. You likely see it in your imagination every day. Most businesses or non-profits, however, rely on others’ talent, labor, and money. These people cannot see what you see unless you translate your vision to words.

In his book, A Lapsed Anarchist’s Approach to Building a Great Business, Zingerman’s founder, Ari Weinzweig,  retells a simple story of two construction workers who give very different answers to the question “what are you doing?” One replies, “I’m laying bricks.” The second declares “I’m building a cathedral.” The first only sees what he does hour after hour, day after day. The other sees the vision. Who would you rather have working for you? And as an employee would you rather work for a company who tells you your job is to lay bricks or build a cathedral?

Your mission is what you do everyday to achieve you vision.

In Weinzweig’s cathedral example, the first worker’s answer is one small part of the mission. This worker lays bricks. Other workers mix mortar, cut beams, carve alters, or fashion stained glass windows. Their collective work defines the mission which in turn results in a new cathedral.

By articulating a vision and mission, a shared workplace culture emerges which empowers workers and enhances an organization’s ability to adapt when conditions change. Say for example one morning the brick layer notices they are running low on bricks. Instead of simply working until all the bricks run out and then waiting for more bricks to arrive, they will actively seek to solve the problem because they understand that if they are unable to complete the walls, the vision of a new cathedral will not be realized.

Five design rules for vision statements

System theorists and Cornell University faculty Derek and Laura Cabrera  provide five design rules to follow when writing a vision statement. A vision statement should be Intrinsically motivating, depict a desired future state, short and simple, measurable, enculturated.

So, start putting your dreams down on paper. Write and rewrite. Share your vision of the future with others. If it helps, draw what you see.  And remember, your mission brings about the vision so clarify the vision first. Most importantly, take the time to work through this process before you tackle writing a business plan.