How Do Leaders Get Their Organizations From Vision to Action?

Model the Way, Inspire a Shared Vision, Challenge the Process, Enable Others to Act, Encourage the Heart”  Kouzes and Posner


I attended the annual CII conference in July this year and was really impressed with the quality of the presentations and tools that were offered. Construction Industry Institute, CII, was initiated by the University of Texas and is a collaboration between academia and industry to research some of the tough issues that industry faces and to come up with practical approaches and tools to deal with these problems.

Every year, CII selects a number of these tough problems and creates research teams comprised of academia (professors and grad students), representatives from owners, construction companies, engineering firms and suppliers to research these problems and come up with potential solutions. Each team has 2 years to do its research and to compile the results along with tools or guidelines to help address the problem identified.

Every year, CII holds its annual conference and the research teams report out their findings to the conference attendees. I would highly recommend membership in CII to anyone that is involved in engineering or construction.

One of the presentations this past conference was entitled Vision to Action. It was focused on a process to take a vision and turn it into actionable steps. Many times we have visions and ideas but we find it hard to turn the lofty vision into an actionable plan and we find it harder to get people to buy into the vision and carry out the action steps required for success.

Casting a vision and moving that vision from a dream or speech to actionable steps that result in the fulfillment of the vision is more of an art than a science. It involves tremendous communication efforts, networking, getting buy-in at all levels of your organization, change management, funding, scheduling, etc. Having said all this, a logical framework for carrying out this vision to action activity is very helpful in making sure you have taken care of all aspects of the process.

Vision is an essential element of the leader’s job. But no vision is worth the paper it’s printed on unless it is communicated constantly and reinforced with rewards.Jack Welch

The CII research team created a very nice process. The research project itself is called CII IS-31 and the tools can be purchased from the CII website. I have summarized their process below which is based on the analogy of building a bridge across a river.

  • Phase 1 – Preparing to Cross – answer the questions required to get management buy-in to the vision and to establish the implementation plan
  • Phase 2 – Getting on the Bridge – establish the metrics to measure progress and be prepared to answer the question “why is this important to the organization?”
  • Phase 3 – Starting on the Journey – make sure the team and resources are in place to carry out the implementation.
  • Phase 4 – Checking the Supports – make sure the organization has the appropriate cultural, management and technical support in place for implementation
  • Phase 5 – The Main Crossing – make sure the organization has a clear plan for implementation
  • Phase 6 – Addressing the Barriers – prepare the organization for any anticipated barriers in reaching the vision
  • Phase 7 – Exiting to Action – communicate the organizations success and leverage this to build the organization stronger

The research team also created a hotlist to define what the organization must do to increase the chances of success for this bridge building/crossing process.

  1. Make it a priority – make innovation a priority for the organization
  2. Strategize strategic success – understand how the vision aligns with the strategic goals of the organization
  3. Communicate a new reality – communicate to the organization what achieving the vision will mean
  4. Inspire the team – the leaders must inspire the organization to move from where they are to the promise that the vision brings
  5. Embrace the vision – the vision should be discussed and supported at all levels of the organization
  6. Be loud and proud – speak about the new changes whenever possible
  7. Spread the word – communicate the vision at every opportunity
  8. Own it and live it – leaders must live the vision and not just pay lip service to it
  9. Drive the train, don’t watch the parade – leaders must get their hands dirty and get involved with the details. Don’t just delegate everything
  10. Grow the fire, not just the flames – ignite the fire of change and then grow the fire

I found it interesting that 8 out of the 10 items listed as part of the hotlist are communication factors. I think the most important aspect of proper vision implementation is communication. Without proper communication all initiatives will end in failure.

As Peter Drucker says, “Communication always makes demands. It always demands that the recipient become somebody, do something, believe something. It always appeals to motivation.”

As leaders, if we do not communicate clearly to inspire the correct actions and behaviors, our visions and all related initiatives will fail.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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