One of the most effective tools that I have used in trying to align differing visions is what I loosely call a white paper.  I don’t mean the term as it is usually used (a formal, official report on a specific topic), rather various parties writing a 1-2 page description of “what it would look like” if things were to be different.

It is easy to say: “I wish there was more collaboration”, but it’s another thing altogether to describe how the organization would function if that were the case.  People can complain that: “I wish our programs were different”, but it is much harder to put on one page what the environment would be like if changes were made.  People can say: “I wish there were more things going on here”, but until they can describe what ‘more’ looks like, a common vision will be illusive.

It’s important to note that I said “describe” rather than list.  You’re not seeking a list of activities, rather you are asking the writer to paint a picture of how things would be if their vision was realized.

By asking participants to do a paper, it forces them not only to think but, more importantly, to clarify what they really mean.  Papers can be shared as a conversation-starter — it brings the differing visions to life, often helps others understand or see the benefits from a change and allows people to find points of agreement instead of just variances.

Do you have something you’d like to see changed or a new way for your organization to “be”?  Try describing it on a page and see if it doesn’t help you gain clarity.  A fuzzy vision is hard to see, and even harder to bring to life.

— beth triplett


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