Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Turning a Vision into Reality

Guest post from Joseph Paris:

What does it take to get from the idea to the realization of that idea? How do we get from a dream or the scribblings on the back of a napkin or some vivid imagery that is concocted in our mind’s eye—perhaps the result of a peyote-induced haze—to something tangible we can deliver to our customers or our colleagues? What does it take, what is the process, to get from contemplation to completion? How do we turn our visions into a reality?

Lessons from the Earth to the Moon

When I was younger, the space race was in full swing. There was no International Space Station (or any space station) and no Space Shuttle, and Neil Armstrong had not yet set foot on the Moon. I am too young to remember any of the Mercury or Gemini missions, but I do remember many of the Apollo missions. And I remember that each and every launch from Cape Canaveral was watched with intensity from every television in the nation, perhaps the world.

Vision is the image of the future that you have for your company. The key to success for any initiative is to be able to know what the vision is—in its most simple and raw form—and to effectively communicate what that vision is to the team in clear and concise language so everyone can understand what the company stands for and what it strives to be. You must align the team so they know their roles in pursuit of this vision and what they are expected to accomplish.

In the case of our heroes at Mission Control, their vision began in 1961, when President John F. Kennedy proclaimed, “I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving
the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth.”1 Make no mistake in the boldness of this statement, especially the latter part. It’s far simpler to put a man on the Moon than it is to put a man on the Moon and get him safely back to Earth. But no matter how bold a statement it was or how complex it
would actually be to fulfill, the elegance of its simplicity made it
all seem plausible and possible.

Kennedy had motivation but he also had a gut feeling, based on the accomplishments of the first half of the century—a century that saw the invention of flight, the harnessing of electricity, the automobile, submarines, space flight, and the splitting of the atom—that his bold gauntlet was achievable. The very first step in achieving any future state is to define, as completely and as simply as you can, what it is you want to accomplish: What are the goals? Every sport has a means of calculating success or levels of success. Football has the aptly named goal line. Golf counts strokes. Even synchronized swimming has a manner of obtaining a score, however subjective it might be. How will you know if you have accomplished your objectives if they are not defined?

Visions of the future do not have to be complex. In fact, the best visions are simple, succinct, elegant, and understandable. This is necessary because you will never be able to describe your vision to someone with as much clarity and detail as it is in your mind, unless you distill it down to its raw essence as Kennedy did. >From a practical perspective, this is a requirement because you will need a cadre of people with their diverse talents and expertise to make your vision a reality. If you find your vision is complicated, chances are you don’t understand it well enough yourself—never mind trying to explain it to others. Go back and do a better job. Revise your goals until they are clear, concise, and achievable.

Joseph F. Paris Jr. is a thought leader on the subject of operational excellence, a prolific writer, a sought-after speaker around the world, and the author of the new book State of Readiness. In addition, Paris serves on the editorial board of The Lean Management Journal, the board of the Systems Science and Industrial Engineering Department at the Watson School of Engineering at Binghamton University, and the board of the Institute of Industrial Engineers' Process Industries Division. 

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