Transforming an organisation takes vision. Kotter's seminal book Leading Change* outlines eight steps to turn a vision for change into reality. The third step in his process is creating the vision, this is done once a sense of urgency for the change has been created and a powerful guiding coalition is formed to then create the vision.
Developing a vision and strategy establishes the foundation for the change by investing time and effort in agreeing, through a process of debate and buy-in, the direction and expected outcomes of the change. It is the picture of the future and describes the reason why it is important to create that future.
According to Kotter the vision serves 3 purposes, it:
- Clarifies the general direction of the change. This simplifies decision making when detailed discussions arise later on and it helps to minimise disagreements and confusion when individuals work to understand the direction of the change.
- Motivates individuals to take action in the right direction including understanding why they should work through their own personal short term pain. Seeing and understanding the long term view gives them something to fight for.
- Coordinates the actions of everyone involved which in turn reduces waste and therefore costs. Asking the question "Is this in line with the vision?" allows people to quickly return their focus to the change effort.
Kotter states that from his experience "developing a vision is an exercise of both the head and the heart, it takes some time, it always involves a group of people, and it is tough to do well."