I’ll be offering this week long workshop at the week long “Friends General Conference” gathering this summer.  But I’d love to work with anybody about how Quaker-ish process might work in any secular setting.

“We’ll explore ways in which something akin to a Quakerlike process can be used for secular decision making, and how it brings clarity and community to the life of non-profit organizations and even to for-profit companies. What’s left of Quaker process without it’s emphasis on spiritual discernment? Come and find out!”

Advertisements

On crafting a vision statement

September 10, 2010

So often I find myself writing to a client, or to group that I’m working with, and find that I’ve really written a short essay that deserves broader readership. That happened this morning, when a coaching client, director of a non-profit social service organization, wrote to me:

I really want to work on “the vision thing”.  But if I can’t articulate a vision for [our organization], I don’t know how I can get the staff or the Board to buy in.

I told him that this conclusion certainly didn’t follow for me, and then offered the following explanation:

Even if you don’t have a comprehensive and clear vision, you might understand the need for one, and might have in mind the outlines of a process that can move towards a vision.  In fact, if you had a very precise vision, that could become a problem itself, as you might be coming into the process without enough openness to what arises in the organization.

How is a “vision” formed?  I believe that it typically reflects several things (which I’m not listing in any particular order):

  • The character of your organization.  If you’re spiritually based, that faith might be central.  Whatever values and beliefs characterize the organization will figure strongly into the vision.
  • The needs of your community.  Your focus is on service, and a sense of the needs around you will help guide your vision of what needs to be done.
  • The capabilities of your organization, and of your staff.  Your organization is not a job training school, not a hospital or clinic, but a cluster of very specific constructive programs.  Those are clearly the starting point, and the ultimate vision will probably have something in common with them.
  • An understanding of social and economic change.  Energy and health care are dominant issues today, but were not so visible even a decade ago.  Connectivity via the internet, electronic privacy, and other new concerns are coming to the forefront.  An assessment of how they might impact your target populations will guide your visioning process.
  • Your current organizational governance community.  A vision that will guide you needs to be something that most, if not all, of your Board members and staff can in some way embrace.  That may require some education and work, but a vision that is too far from what these people can embrace will not be a vision that can actively guide your organization.

What’s the process?  I’d suggest that it begin by reviewing and updating this list, then taking account of which factors in each item are most significant.  There may, for example, be many changes in society that don’t and perhaps won’t impact your role in the community, and your program.  Then, you’ll need a process to review these, and put together a draft list of key points … which might get refined into a more polished statement.

Your role is not to articulate the conclusion, but to motivate people to join in the process, to identify resources that can help you and you organization, to keep the process moving, and to connect the various groups that may be working independently (or at cross purposes).

In consdiering the design challenges I face, I’d distinguish process from paradigm.

Many of the processes I use may be time worn, orthodox, etc. Contextual inquiry (or listening to users) is not new, paper prototyping was not invented last week. I use them not because they are “accepted orthodoxy” but because I find them functional steps towards creative solutions.  The fact that they may be “orthodox” does not make them wrong or outmoded.

But I’m stuck with too many old paradigms about how to understand the world. I imagine a vehicle having some controls, and would have trouble coming up with a Segway where you just lean to steer it. I imagine sound players will have knobs, and would not have expected the iPod model. I still expect cameras to look like those old film devices, even though the physical constraints that led to such designs are gone. I don’t choose these paradigms — I’m stuck with them, until I find a way to escape.

How will my processes, methods, whatever, help me to see the world outside the paradgms that limit my vision? That’s the burning question for me — each day, and with each new project.