Inside out: values, vision, strategy

It’s the start of a new financial year. Time for a new business plan, people want to know what’s in store, what’s the “new vision”… So where to start?

“Customer focus”, “Outcomes”, “Long term strategy”, “Big picture”, “Results”…

Obvious, right?

Well.. I’m not so sure. I think there’s at least a couple of problems with starting at the end and working back.

To begin with, I don’t know that we can do the best job for our customers if we’re not in the right frame of mind, feeling good and thinking positively.

The other thing is future uncertainty. How can you know today what the right place, time or cost will be?

Here’s a bit more on those two…

1) If things aren’t right at home, your customers won’t make it better – It seems to me that things become easier when your own house is in order. If you’re not happy about something before you get to work, chances are it’ll impact your work. So taking it right back to basics is, in my opinion, the starting point. One of my favourite takeways from “The Art of Happiness at Work” is Dr Wrzesniewski’s interviewee comment:

My job can’t make me feel better, I have to take care of that.

Fast forward a few steps to work. Does it make sense to embark on lots of customer engagement before the team is happy? Maybe not, but I wonder how many organisations spend more time, money and energy doing customer focus exercises than they do focusing on their own staff.

2) Even Nostradamus got it wrong – So why do organisations think they’ll be any different?  I can’t be certain what’s going to happen tomorrow. Predicting the price of petrol next year? I wouldn’t bet on it. Nonetheless, business plans are inevitably sprinkled with guesswork and wishful thinking. 

Traditional thinking assumes that in order to stand a good chance of arriving in the right place, at the right time, at the right cost you must have a clearly defined roadmap to get there. History is littered with failed attempts to predict the future as long-term plans change shape, miss their targets or simply aren’t delivered. And the ones that do meet their targets? ..have contingency built in to such a level that the truth is, they were always adaptive.

So wouldn’t it be more realistic (and effective) to adopt an ‘adaptive vision’ that responds to circumstances as they evolve?

Here’s a definition of “adaptive vision” from Jon Husband + Luis Suarez

“An adaptive vision is one that can change and adapt as context and landscape shifts, without losing the fundamental touchstone, or your core values”

I tend to identify “values” more as internal and “vision” more as external. On that basis, values ought to be less prone to change because there are less variables.  And if “strategy” is the route to a vision then, there must be infinite strategic possibilities.

If you can agree collective values and accept an adaptive vision, a strategy will emerge.

The questions that remain are: what’s going to make you happy? …what’s going to make the team happy? And if you can’t predict the future with certainty, but you can commit to values, what values?

Here’s a few suggestions that spring to mind: 

Inside out.



One thought on “Inside out: values, vision, strategy

  1. Comments from Luis, copied from original post (

    “Hi Austen, thanks much for putting together this superb blog post and for the link / quote love! Much appreciated! I must confess that while the quote is not mine, but Jon’s, I share the vision behind it. It’s been part of conversations that both Jon, myself and a few others have been having for a while on how for businesses to succeed, and without losing track of that customer centric approach, need to nurture the right kind of corporate culture environment where knowledge workers feel *happy* about what they are doing. And that involves that they are more engaged, motivated, committed, appreciated, recognised, involved, co-sharing that responsibility to do the right thing while still being relatively autonomous so that they can help lower down the center of gravity and decision making.

    Yes, I know it may all sound a bit utopian, but to be honest, let’s look at the alternatives. Just a few days ago, Jacob Morgan posted a rather thought provoking article under “New Study: Only 10 Percent of Employees are Engaged”, where he was worryingly, and rightly so!, quoting a recent study that talked about how disengaged corporate knowledge workers are. No wonder!! Turn the tide around, shift focus, and move right along of that strategy of regaining people’s trust and willingness to do more and be recognised for it and the equation will change, and big time. Resulting, eventually, in what should be our final frontier: happy employees, happy customers.

    But we need to start somewhere, at some point, and somehow it sounds like that set of core values and corporate culture is the right start!

    Well done! And welcome to the Internet Blogosphere! :)”

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