Friday, November 26, 2010

Does a vision statement really mean anything in a workers’ compensation organization?

Most public and private organizations have a corporate “vision” statement.  Some people view the creation and use of a vision statement as another one of those things you are supposed to do that doesn’t really matter on a day-to-day basis.   If the vision statement is simply a perfunctory piece of prose, then it is dispensable.  On the other hand, if the vision statement is truly a shared conception of the ultimate future your organization is striving for, then a vision statement is a crucial element of your strategy. 

Working in Corporate Planning, I get to look at a lot of vision statements.  Some vision statements are famous.  Jack Welch, the former CEO of General Electric lead his organization with the following vision statement “To become the most competitive enterprise in the world by being number one or number two in every business in which we compete.”

Other vision statements are less transformational and more directive.  Hewlett Packard has the following vision statement:

"To view change in the market as an opportunity to grow; to use our profits and our ability to develop and produce innovative products, services and solutions that satisfy emerging customer needs."

Amnesty International's vision is of “a world in which every person enjoys all of the human rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international human rights standards.”

Vision statements can certainly be inspirational and are usually aspirational—a state that is wished for involving a stretch from the present.  Workers’ compensation systems generally get their mandate from legislation but it is the leadership (usually the board of directors) that establish the organization’s  vision.  WorkSafeBC’s vision statement clearly fits the inspirational/aspirational category: 
“Workers and workplaces safe and secure from injury, illness, and disease”

It is certainly aspirational (we aren’t there yet)  and  is very descriptive of the world we are striving for.  

WorkSafe Victoria is focused on the worker:  “Victorian workers returning home safe everyday”.

WorkSafeMT "... envisions a future without injury, illness and fatality in Montana's workplaces"

If you really believe in that vision, then the programs and initiatives you design will be aligned with and contribute to that vision. (If an initiative does not align, you really have to ask “Why are we doing this?”)

These last three vision statement are very different from WorkCover Queensland’s vision “To excel in workers’ compensation insurance” and  WorkCover Western Australia’s vision “ A workers’ compensation scheme valued by all.”  When you think about these two vision statements, the programs and initiatives you might design will likely have different features and emphasis than the previous three.    

Vision statements crystallize the future state of nature your organization is working toward.  Actually getting there requires commitment, goals, objectives, strategies and programs (including projects and initiatives).  Each part of the organization has its own mission with its own plans and projects that are aimed at contributing to the overall strategy.  Aligning vision, mission,  strategy and actual operations is critical to performance. 

If you have a favourite vision statement, post it and tell us what makes it great.

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