Posts Tagged ‘vision’

by Richard Martin

It’s Saturday morning and I’m sitting in my hotel room in Dubai. I’m here to conduct courses in strategic and operational management and leadership. I’m pondering the power of a vision and the means to achieve it.

I first was in the United Arab Emirates in December of 2002, as I prepared to deploy to Kuwait as the Canadian Forces Liaison Officer to the Coalition Forces Land Component Command prior to the invasion of Iraq. I was able to get into the city of Dubai on a few occasions with some of my colleagues for some R&R. The city has grown a lot in just those 15 years, and even since I started conducting courses here in 2014.

It’s gaudy and slick, hyper-modern and traditional, avant-garde and retrograde, all at the same time. If you like cutting edge architecture in the most bizarre locations with basically nothing around it, then you must visit Dubai. The skyline looks impressive from the sea, but when you’re in the city, all you see during the day is buildings, roads, and a haze combining humidity and dust and the beige-grey desert merging into the same coloured sky on a horizon that you can never quite make out. At night, it’s lights everywhere, sometimes quite pretty. Not as gaudy as Las Vegas, but still extravagant.

What is it about cities in the desert that makes them so attractive to adventurers and admirers alike? There is really nowhere to walk, as everything is designed around roads and a superb metro system. But even if you could walk, you wouldn’t want to for most of the year, as it’s extremely hot and humid. As I write, it’s forecast to go up to 45 C today, but the humidex is predicting 81 C!

The United Arab Emirates, of which Dubai is the most famous state, was founded in the early 1970s under the visionary leadership of Sheikh Zayed, ruler of Abu Dhabi. Abu Dhabi has most of the oil, but Dubai has the chutzpah and international reputation. The current ruler of Dubai is Sheikh Mohammed, who acceded to the post upon the death of his older brother in 2006, but who was also the de facto ruler for a decade before that.

It’s hard to believe, but as late as 1965, the city had a population of only 20,000. Most of these were huddled close to the Dubai Creek, a small inlet from the Persian Gulf. It was a marketplace, but the majority lived off fishing and pearl diving! Now, it’s a global trade and financial centre, and increasingly a manufacturing location and tourist destination. People from around the world come here to work, to make money, and to play.

Most of what Dubai is today, from Emirates Airlines (based in Dubai), the Burj Khalifa (the tallest freestanding building in the world), to the Palm Jumeirah (artificial islands shaped like a palm tree), is a result of the vision and leadership of Sheikh Mohammed. One of his many books is available for sale everywhere, appropriately titled My Vision. As prime minister of the UAE, in 2010 he issued a long-term federal vision for the country, called Vision 2021. Not many countries are led this way—essentially as an integrated organization.

It’s an interesting study in the power of vision combined with the resources to achieve it. Contrary to expectations, though, the city isn’t built on oil money. Exactly the opposite; it’s designed to avoid dependence on oil and natural resources. A possible example for many other jurisdictions around the world.

© 2017 Alcera Consulting Inc. This article may be used for non-commercial use with proper attribution.

Every company should have a mission statement. Why? Because it helps to focus everyone’s attention, mainly internally, on what the company stands for and what its main value proposition is. (Read more on missions here: Are You Clear on Your Mission?)There is a problem however when it’s not well known or even unknown within a company. Unfortunately, many executives treat elements of strategy, and especially critical ones like the mission statement, like a state secret.

A few days ago I was with a client who has waited before giving everyone in his company the new vision and mission. He owns a medium sized business and we were discussing ideas to boost sales with the director of sales of one of his divisions. To one of the ideas we were discussing the director of sales said, “but that is outside our current mission.” The thing though is that it isn’t outside the company’s NEW mission, which was decided upon about a year ago! The owner hasn’t taken the time to brief his employees and managers on the full strategy, including mission, vision, major thrusts, goals, positioning, etc. If he had done so, who knows how many ideas they could have come up with to implement the strategy during the intervening period?

I told my client that he has to get his people on board with the new strategy, especially the vision, mission, and major thrusts. This is so he can leverage the talents and energy of EVERYONE in the company, not just a few close collaborators. This is why Leadership Principle #10 that I wrote about a few weeks ago is so important. Otherwise, he will continue to struggle in implementing the company’s strategy.

Don’t treat your mission statement like a state secret. Draw the shades and let in the light. You’ll be pleasantly surprised by the results when you let everyone in your organization in on the mission and other critical components of your strategy.

© 2012 Richard Martin. Reproduction and quotes permitted with full and proper attribution.

This is the first principle in my series discussing the applicability of the principles of war for success in business and life.

Selection and maintenance of the aim is the number one principle. In the US military it is simply known as the principle of Objective. To achieve anything of consequence, you must know what it is you wish to achieve and then persist in achieving it against obstacles, uncertainty, risk, friction, resistance, and opposition.

Selection implies that there must be a deliberate process of analysis and evaluation of options prior to deciding on an overarching objective. Maintenance implies the fact that nothing ever works the way you plan it or wish. You have to be willing to stay in the fight until you achieve your aim.

The application to military strategy is obvious. Whether at the strategic, operational, or tactical levels, you must have a single overriding objective that is communicated to everyone concerned and that drives all of the planning and action. The Western Allies during the Second World War identified the complete defeat and unconditional surrender of the Axis countries as the overarching objective of military action. That aim drove everything else, without ambiguity, and sustained them during the darkest days of the war, from 1940 to 1942.

In business, every company must have an overarching vision of what it is trying to achieve, or where it sees itself in one, three, or five years. I’m not talking about the typically vapid vision statements such as “We are a visionary company striving to achieve excellence.” I’m talking about a vision such as “We are striving to be the number one company in the field of X. Our revenues will grow to Y by the year 201X and we will be known for the outstanding quality of our products and our service.” We can see that the first vision is not really an objective, as there is nothing concrete to sink your teeth into. The second one, while only an abstract example, already shows that you need to be specific and measurable in setting the overall goals of the business. It is only with such specificity that everyone in the company can be mobilized to work in achieving the vision through the power of their collective and individual initiative and motivation.

© 2012 Richard Martin. Reproduction and quotes permitted with full and proper attribution.