Sunday, July 15, 2007

The Power of Vision

In previous posts, I’ve talked a lot about vision. “If we could create the organization of our dreams and have the impact we have always wanted to have in the lives of the people we serve, what would that success look like in five years?”

I regard vision as the centerpiece of the strategic planning process -- and the resulting strategic plan. Of course, we need detailed, financially viable action plans to get us to our desired future. But without a compelling, shared vision, really, what’s the point?

I want to share a favorite quote with you. Max DePree ends his book Leadership Jazz with a captivating story about leaders whose actions were inspired by vision. This story demonstrates to us the vital link between strategic planning, vision and the stewardship responsibilities of leadership. It's a lesson for all of us: our strategic plans will touch the lives of individuals and communities far into the future.

In the late fourteenth century, the members of New College at Oxford, moved into their quadrangle, the first structure of its kind, intended to provide for the residents all that they needed. On the north side of the quadrangle sit the chapel and the great hall, beautiful buildings and, as you might imagine, the focus of the life of the college.

In the middle of the nineteenth century, almost five hundred years later, the college hired architect Sir Gilbert Scott to restore the roof of the hall. The roof and the great oak beams that supported it had badly rotted. And so representatives from the college with Sir Gilbert visited Great Hall Woods, in Berkshire, where they expected to find trees for replacement beams. Sure enough, the replacements were standing there, waiting to be hewn out of the living oak trees planted a century before for just that purpose.

An anonymous leader's promise had been fulfilled. The voice and touch of a distant leader had been joined.