One of the most profound transformations I was involved with started with the vision of one man. He was an inspiring leader, very top down and had had a calling. He wanted to radically change the structure and ways of working of his organisation by flattening the hierarchy and giving full autonomy to his teams.

I clearly remember the week he shared his vision with all employees. Everyone was enthusiastic: the workers could see how this would benefit them, and his management team was fully behind him.

I suggested as a precautionary measure that we run a workshop with his management team to make sure they had understood the vision and were aligned on where we were going. We did that and everyone was 100% on board.

The leader was elated.

I said to him: “I don’t believe that everyone can be on board with this vision, it entails profound changes to everyone’s work and will require a complete change of leadership style for all managers. I believe that we have a problem. You’re a strong charismatic leader, so either they are trying to please you, or they haven’t understood the vision.”

That was the day the real work started.

We held many more short workshops and work sessions so that everyone could understand what would be required of them, how they would need to lead differently, and how this would impact what they knew and what they did. Over a couple of months, the management team’s understanding evolved. Some decided they definitely wanted to be onboard and, in time, formed the core team. Some decided they wanted to leave, and we helped them find a position elsewhere in the company. A few left the company. A majority went with the flow to the best of their abilities and gradually found their calling -often changing roles- because the work we did on the vision allowed them to define what they really wanted to do. It created huge internal movement as everyone readjusted.

No matter how appealing the vision, only the one who has the vision fully understands it.

Time and time over I have seen visions or ambitions spelt out in a meeting and received (at best) with great enthusiasm only to gently erode and disintegrate as nothing further happens despite communicating about it and etching it on the walls.

A vision only comes alive when your people understand it, have worked on it, and can pragmatically see how it impacts them and their work. Then, and only then, can they start to see how they can contribute at their level to making it happen.

If you’ve got a vision, have communicated it to your teams and are now planning a fun all employee seminar to kick it off, please don’t do it! Stop! Pause!

I have seen this happen again this weekend as I witnessed from afar a company planning their seminar. As a neurodiverse consultant, I can already tell you the outcome because it is a well-trodden path and I’m good at pattern recognition.

Everyone in this company will have a wonderful time because the communications team have selected an exceptional location, they will do a short work session after a late night, everyone will go home having reconnected, having enjoyed the opportunity to speak with their colleagues. Management will have a good belly feeling. And nothing will happen. Nothing inside the organisation will change to create behaviours and outcomes that serve the vision. The company will have spent a hefty budget to have a good time, and whilst that’s wonderful, it’s not the reason they organised this year’s seminar.

Actually, they organised this year’s seminar because last year’s seminar was disappointing in terms of results…

So, if you’ve got a vision, and want to roll it out, before you commit to anything, let’s talk. I will help you design a change process that will help your people understand the vision, work on it and defines the ways of working that contribute to achieving your ambitions.