Our work in this area has been influenced by a scene in Alice in Wonderland. At a fork in the road Alice meets the Cheshire Cat, and this conversation takes place:

“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.
“I don’t much care where,” said Alice.
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.
“So long as I get somewhere,” Alice added as an explanation.
“Oh, you’re sure to do that,” said the Cat, “If you only walk long enough.”¹

The sense we draw from this is that even if we do very little we will end up somewhere at a future date but unless we give this destination some serious thought we might end up in a place which is not entirely to our liking. In this regard another quote has also had an impact on our thinking.

“Our tomorrows are the products of today’s thoughts, feelings and actions, both individual and collective.”²

This quote from an edited collection of essays called Managing the Unknown goes on to argue a number of key points.

In times of turbulence and change leaders and managers are often advised to do one of two things. First, is the predictive prescription in the form of, ‘what you need to do/know is …’ The second by contrast implies that prediction is of less value than being prepared for whatever the future may bring – be infinitely flexible. What both these have in common is the implicit assumption that the future already exists and is waiting for us to arrive.

We firmly believe that this is not the case and that organisations and individuals can affect their futures by paying attention to creating powerful shared visions. Visions are about the long term and are catalysts for energy and change. They give direction and support on which strategy, decision making and clear thinking rest. Vision is a see word, and has the quality of uniqueness. Visions are about our ideals and our hopes. A vision can unite and provide excitement and enthusiasm.

Visions are however not sufficient on their own. Organisations and individuals also need a clear sense of purpose or mission and be guided by core values or guiding principles. If all these elements are present then our behaviours, our day to day actions should be guided by our core values – whilst delivering our purpose and striving to achieve our vision.

We have worked with a number of organisations helping people to create their visions and agree their values including:

  • Senior management teams in several pharmaceutical companies
  • A medium sized computer company
  • A senior team in the north sea oil business
  • Several teams working in the National Health Service
  • Multinational senior team in an international bank

1. Alice in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll
2. Managing the Unknown by Creating New Futures, Edited by Richard Boot, Jean Lawrence and John Morris, McGraw-Hill, 1994