Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Frustrated by that "vision thing"

Today I'm feeling a lot like Bush 41 who lamented that he didn't really get the "vision thing." I attended a meeting whose purpose was to develop a "vision" for the group we represent. This is called " a visioning process". Whenever a noun is turned into an adjective or a verb--look out.

Members of the group have gone back and forth for several months trying to develop statements of "vision". Every now and then we seem to have a consensus on one and then by the next meeting, through the magic of email, the consensus has dissolved and several new versions of the "vision" have been placed on the table for discussion.

Over the years I have been part of discussions like this in many different venues: school groups, the workplace, non-profit groups and the church. I've yet to see the adoption of a "vision statement" or even a "mission statement" make any difference a few months later.

The Bible says that without vision the people will perish--but I don't think that applies to vision statements. I'm the type of person who relates to well-defined goals and objectives. Tell me what you would like to accomplish and I can deal with trying to find a way to achieve that goal. "Visioning" seems to be a process of trying to get consensus on you want to accomplish. I find it frustrating and elusive.

Why is this type of process so popular? Most "vision" and "mission" statements are platitudinous and soon forgotten except by those who had to spend the time and energy crafting them. In today's meeting I felt like I had been dropped unceremoniously into an ongoing graduate seminar that was engaged in petty linguistic disputes.

Not that I have an opinion!


will spotts said...

Vision statements hardly seem to qualify as a vision. They seem either to be self-evident already or abject nonsense.

Personally, I think the effort is to get concensus on a vision one already has in mind. (Those of us who legitimately try to find out the various visions of our congregations in this way are rarely successful.) If, however, one had a target goal and could kind of help this process along, it would confuse and mislead participants into thinking they were involved in the decision making. The point would be to get buy in from a good portion of the group.

I've seen this done both ways (i.e. honestly, without working toward a planned outcome; and to get buyin for a predetermined vision) -- in church and in business. Either way, I don't think it's what the writer intended by "without a vision the people perish."

Quotidian Grace said...

Very perceptive analysis of the real agendas that underly these type of "visioning" efforts. In my case I believe that it is an attempt to get buyin for a predetermined result. I happen to support the predetermined result here, but nonetheless find the process frustrating and wish the "powers that be" would be more forthright about it.

will spotts said...

I agree.

Even if it is a result I agree with, I tend to dislike process that strike me as devious -- or at least less than forthright.

SpookyRach said...

It always seems to me that this process is in place to make people feel like they are doing something. Anything.

But, they're not.