Translating Vision to Action

We have had a very positive experience working with Organized Change. They designed a survey for one of our global teams to help design an organizational change and develop scenarios for our strategies. Organized Change is a dependable collaborator who can be relied upon to help us meet our goals.

David Chaudron, PhD In my 26 years as an independent consultant, I have seen many fads come and go. Currently, one of those fads is developing a company vision.
I’m sure many of you work in organizations that have developed such, or are aware of many companies who have done so. Unfortunately, the work of developing a vision is the easy part. All the posters, logos on business cards and videos/Powerpoint presentations is still the work that is easily done, with little effect.

Developing a company vision isn’t a great idea

This statement may be surprising to you. Shouldn’t an organization have a clear idea about its purpose, measures of success and the strategies to get there?

Absolutely. I fully agree. The problem is purpose, measures of success and strategies aren’t a vision. A vision is an idealized future state, independent of any particular organization.

Perhaps one of the most memorable visions is taken from speech of Dr. Martin Luther King, the American civil rights activist in the 1960’s: "I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. I have a dream today!"

By developing a “vision”, organization can easily get confused about the difference between a vision and a mission. I’ve spent endless hours in the past helping my clients work through this. It’s a delight to bill them for all the time, but it serves little purpose.

Even if an organization develops a vision, they often get stuck. If you will, a vision is an idealized future. They focus their efforts in to achieving this idealized future, but there is a problem: A vision rarely is accomplished. What happens if things go wrong?

With our clients, we develop multiple scenarios of the future, and help them work through their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats in them.

This has the advantage of reducing surprises, giving a longer-term planning horizon, and helps them realize what a strength in one scenario may be a weakness in others.

What you need to achieve your company mission, goals and strategies will probably require uncomfortable change

The greater the gap between what you want to accomplish and your current state, the more likely significant change is necessary. We have broken down various methods in helping organizations into four categories.

Type of technique/method



Level 1

Scenario planning, developing possible futures and planning accordingly

Some scenarios may be substantially different from what is happening now. Organizations must be willing to contemplate radical change to succeed.

Level 2

Strategic planning and SWOT analysis

Often done assuming the future is like the present, or easily predictable.

Level 3

Significant change to internal systems, such as IT, compensation, organizational structure

Assumes the mission and future (scenarios) are a given and will not be changed.

Level 4

Incremental change (Six Sigma, posters, small problem solving teams)

Assumes that incremental change over long term will solve problems. Process changes, training and persuasion, will accomplish all that is needed.

Additional information on these levels can be found on our website at An Arabic version is at

“Top-down” Implementation rarely works in the long run

I believe there is an Arabic saying, to the effect that is the horse sets a direction, the cows will follow. If all you had to do was persuade cows to move, organizational change would be easy.

It’s easy to think that all you need to do is persuade people who work for you, find the “resisters” and deal with them. In my experience, many changes may be needed in an organizations purpose and systems to really make organizational change happen. Overcoming resistance by some won’t change this.

In addition, those people who are labeled as resisters are often misconstrued. Management thinks they are automatically against the change just because they disagree with it. This is especially problem in Arabic countries, who often have a high power-distance relationship, where criticism of those more powerful are rarely heard.

One of our clients had this problem. One older gentleman always seemed to find a flaw in whatever the rest of senior management was trying to accomplish. He was labeled as a resister and was often ignored However, if you listened to him carefully, you realized his objections had a basis in truth, and his concerns needed to be heard to improve the chances of implementation.

In addition, you have the silent supporters and critics. Often, they are ignored because they are not the squeaky wheels who are often heard. With careful listening techniques, their ideas and concerns can be made explicit. This happened one time with another of our clients. One employee rarely spoke, but I noticed he seemed to want to say something. I encouraged him to speak, and what he said allowed us to avoid a substantial problem in implementation.

How you use consultants probably doesn’t help.

Organizations in the Middle East seem to use consultants in three ways, some of which are peculiar (and ineffective) to American eyes:

The first is to hire a consultant to do a study. Consultants certainly may have expertise and domain knowledge that is useful to an organization. For example, we have conducted many employee surveys for our clients, which allows employees to communicate with someone considered “neutral” and outside the organization. Conducting a marketing study is another example. Unfortunately, a study by itself rarely does anything. When we work with our clients, we help them develop a process to move the just data into action and implementation.

The second is to outsource a function or process permanently to an outside organization. “Cloud”computing is one example, where software, bandwidth and data storage rented rather than owned on one’s own servers. This has tremendous advantages, but it raises a question: How we customize this to exactly what we need and what happens if a vendor disappears?

The third is let consultants do the work you should do yourself. Many organizations have hired consulting firms to develop their strategic plan. This has two major faults: the lack of ownership by the organization, and a poor path to implementation. If you hire a consulting firm to develop a pretty set of Powerpoint slides, it is easy to blame the consulting firm if something goes wrong. Unfortunately, blaming someone rarely fixes a problem and rarely causes a strategic plan to be implemented. The second problem with someone else developing your strategic plan is that is unclear who has do what to accomplish it.

Most American consultants realize they should facilitate decision-making by their clients, and help them develop their own implementation plan. Consultants are there for process, training, information and a “neutral eye” on the problem. They can facilitate meetings of senior management and key stakeholders- but the responsibility for decisions and implementation rests with the client.

To put it another way: If you talk to a doctor and he or she says you are overweight, how can they lose the weight for you? They can provide process, measurement and ongoing feedback, but the kilos need to be lost by you, and ultimately, by your own effort.

The details of this process are beyond the scope of this article. We suggest you review our articles on and videos on our website (, and Consensus Builder™ - our software to help facilitate strategy and change.

Dr. Chaudron has over 30 years experience. National and international clients include those in manufacturing, banking, finance, petrochemicals, electronics and aerospace in the United States, France, Germany, Portugal, Brazil, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Kuwait. He has spoken at numerous national and local conferences and been a major speaker at internationally broadcast teleconferences to over 35,000 people on organizational change, TQM and Re-engineering, systems thinking and strategic planning •He holds doctorate and masters degrees in Industrial/Organizational Psychology