What Vince Lombardi Can Teach You About the Importance of Having a Clear Vision If Lombardi was a strategic planner, he'd emphasize the power of being clear on your vision. Once you are, your goals fall into place.

By Eric Ryan

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

I've always been a passionate sports fan and love reading books about my sports heroes. As such, I recently finished John Madden's Hey, Wait a Minute, an old book where he shares his always-colorful experiences as the coach of the Oakland Raiders and as a TV and radio commentator.

In one insightful passage, he recounts his lone conversation with one of his heroes, Vince Lombardi, the legendary coach of the Green Bay Packers:

The more we talked, the more I knew I had to ask him a question that had always intrigued me."

"What is there," I said, "that separates a good coach from a bad coach?"

"Knowing what the end result looks like," Lombardi said. "The best coaches know what the end result looks like, whether it's an offensive play, a defensive coverage, or just some area of the organization. If you don't know what the end result is supposed to look like, you can't get there…"

"After that, whenever I put something new in the Raider playbook, I always tried to picture what the end result should look like. And then I worked to create that end result.

When I read that passage I nodded my head and thought, That's a core strategic planning principle that we teach our clients: Be clear on your end in mind – your vision.

I'm sure that if Lombardi was a strategic planner, he'd emphasize the power of being clear on your vision. Once you are, your goals fall into place.

Related: Strategic Planning Is Essential for Your Business to Succeed. Here's Why (and How to Do It Right).

Types of visions

There are two types of visions that we talk about in strategic planning.

The first is your vision statement — the big-picture idea of what your world, community or audience will look like when you succeed at your mission.

The second is your organizational vision — what your organization will look like in the future. Three years into the future is typical for your organizational vision, but feel free to use a different timeframe that may better suit your needs.

I recommend keeping your timeframe within five years. There are several reasons why you should avoid going beyond five years. For one, the pace of change in today's world is rapid and it's hard to predict what the future will hold. Additionally, setting a shorter timeline keeps your team focused and accountable, encourages flexibility and agility, and allows for more frequent reassessment and adjustment of your strategies.

Crafting your vision statement

We've come up with what we believe is the simplest and most effective approach to vision statements.

For your vision statement, as briefly and specifically as possible, describe what the "world" will look like when you succeed at your mission. Keep the following recommendations in mind:

  • Vision statements should be one simple sentence each. This makes it easier to remember and helps you focus on essentials. Additionally, it will serve as a clear filter for making organizational decisions.
  • Your vision statement should be somewhat timeless. You don't want to have to change it every year or two.
  • Your vision should provide clarity and inspiration.

Related: How to Achieve Long-Term Success by Slowing Down Your Business and Creating a Strategic Plan

Your organizational vision assessment

To create your organizational vision, you first need to decide on a few focus areas. A few common focus areas on which business leaders focus their strategic attention are programs/services, staffing, finances, operations and marketing.

I'd also recommend including strategic planning as a focus area. This will give it the level of significance it requires to become a part of your business process.

Once you set your focus areas, as specifically as possible, describe what you hope your organization will look like in three years for each of the areas. Here are some ideas on what those focus areas can and should include:

  • Programs or services: Should include your goals for your main product.
  • Staffing: Should consider your staffing structure and composition.
  • Finances: Can include issues about income, revenue and expenses.
  • Operations: Can include financial management, human resource policies, risk management, facility maintenance and office management.
  • Marketing: Can include issues of branding strategy, customer/stakeholder identification, digital communications and events.

Together, these descriptions will comprise your organizational vision.

After you have the focus area visions set, ask yourself what needs to happen to make your vision in each of the areas become a reality. These actions, or any obstacles you see in the way of meeting a focus area vision, will become your goals over the next three or so years.

That's it. That exercise can be the start of your strategic plan. It really is as simple as that.

Of course, there are other models and assessments to help you recognize risks, opportunities, strengths and weaknesses, but this is a pragmatic first step to creating your plan.

Related: Vision: The Driver Of Entrepreneurship

Your vision statement will largely stay unchanged. Your organizational vision exercise should be repeated on an annual basis. This assessment will help you to continue a strategic cycle of identifying focus areas and setting goals.

Take Lombardi's advice of always keeping your end result in mind and you are on your way to becoming a successful strategic planner.

Eric Ryan

Founding Partner of Mission Met LLC

Eric Ryan is a founding partner at Mission Met, author, speaker and thought leader helping nonprofits develop and execute their strategic plan.

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