Essential Components of a Successful Vision for Change

Essential Components of a Successful Vision for Change
Facebook Twitter Email LinkedIn

A Change Management Essential — A Successful Vision for Change
Successful organizational change, both big and small, has to begin with a clear and compelling vision of the desired state to motivate and align those affected by the desired new ways. Regardless of how exciting the new changes may be, we have found that it is not enough for the CEO or the change leadership team to articulate the vision for change. 

Why?  Because people’s level of buy-in, commitment, and ownership is directly related to their level of involvement.  For lasting organizational change, a critical mass of key stakeholders must be actively involved in both developing and operationalizing the shared vision for a preferred future state.

Companies that invest the time to truly shape a shared vision for change build deeper commitments, uncover resistance to change faster, and better tap into people’s aspirations.

What is a Shared Vision for Change?
A shared vision for change is a collectively agreed-upon better future state that all key stakeholders want to call their own.  A shared vision for change answers questions like:

  • What will the changes look like and feel like in the future?
  • Why are the desired changes better than the way things are now?
  • What catalyst is making the changes important or urgent now compared to other priorities?
  • What makes these changes motivating and memorable at the individual, team, and organizational levels?
  • How do the changes align to our organization’s overall strategy, larger sense of purpose, and organizational culture?

Why is a Shared Vision for Change So Hard to Find?
Unfortunately, recent research has shown that only 3% of the typical business leader’s time is spent envisioning a better future (mostly in strategy retreats) and enlisting the hearts and minds of those who will be required to implement the new vision.  Most employees report being aware of organizational change efforts but do not feel meaningfully connected or fully committed to them.

Experienced first hand by change management simulation participants, the disconnect is most often caused by well-intentioned top-down change strategies where an organization’s executive team decides upon the required changes and tries to enlist the rest of the organization to get onboard.  With this often compliance-heavy approach, it is not surprising that change management consulting firm, Bain, reported that only 12% of change management initiatives achieve what they set out to do, and over one-third fail miserably.

Similar disconnects are caused by bottom-up or function-based change strategies that lack the required leadership, interdependence, critical mass, and company-wide purview to make meaningful and lasting changes. 

Why Vision Is Essential to Successful Organizational Change
By its very nature, change is personally and professionally disruptive.  And each person tends to have a unique view of the current situation and varied opinions about how to make things better.  When you are trying to change the way work gets done, you need everyone’s perspective represented to build shared insights, common understanding, and heart-felt commitment for the changes that you seek. 

Unless you can paint an extremely clear and compelling picture of a beneficial end result that everyone can personally understand and buy into, you will not motivate people to act and pull in the same direction over a sustained period of time — especially when the going gets tough.

The Ideal Way to Create a Shared Vision of Organizational Change
The best way to change how people think, behave, and work is to actively tap into people’s collective desire to create and accomplish something important and meaningful. That means that you must deeply connect with those most affected by actively involving stakeholders in creating a better future from the beginning.

Regardless of how many employees that you have, start with the premise that you are going to get ALL of them together until you collectively agree upon:

  • Current State
    Why the current state is no longer satisfactory — hopefully through a rigorous current state analysis
  • Desired State
    What the vision of the desired state looks like and feels like
  • Barriers to Success
    The top barriers that must be overcome to move from the current state to the desired state
  • Meaningful First Steps
    The first steps that must be taken in the next 90 days to begin to achieve the vision for change

Barriers to Creating a Shared Vision of Organizational Change
If you are like many of our clients, you are thinking how can I get 50, 200, 800, or 10,000 people together to create a clear vision for change?  We cannot pull everyone away from their job!  It is too expensive to bring everyone together!  The required resources do not have enough time!

Welcome to the 88% of change initiatives that fail. 

If you cannot afford to get everyone affected by change together, can you afford to have your change initiative take longer?  Cost more? Fail to deliver the expected results? 

We did not think so.

Practical Next Steps
There are many valid reasons to not bring an entire organization together to create a shared vision for change.  If the changes are minor, incremental, simple, not fully supported by leadership, or only impact a small section of the company, it is not necessary to involve the entire organization. 

But if the changes are major, far-reaching, strategic, and backed by leadership, you must define and actively involve a critical mass of people — all key internal and external stakeholders — to create ownership and start off on the same page.

You will know you are on the right path when all of your key stakeholders — those who have influence over and are affected by the changes you seek — believe that the clarity and strength of the vision for change are compelling enough to fully commit to the new ways. 

The Bottom Line
Successful change requires a shared view of the current realities, a willingness and ability to share strategic information, the desire to hear and act upon stakeholder feedback, and a shared vision of the future that is clear, compelling, motivating, believable, relevant, memorable, purpose-driven, challenging, and possible.

To learn more about how to create a successful vision for change, download the 5 Science-Backed Leadership Perspectives of Change that You Must Get Right

Evaluate your Performance


Get key strategy, culture, and talent tools from industry experts that work


Health Checks

Assess how you stack up against leading organizations in areas matter most



Download published articles from experts to stay ahead of the competition



Review proven research-backed approaches to get aligned



Stay up to do date on the latest best practices that drive higher performance


Client Case Studies

Explore real world results for clients like you striving to create higher performance