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

 

About the Author leadership dots by dr. beth triplett

I'm the chief connector at leadership dots where I serve as "the string" for individuals and organizations. Like stringing pearls together to make a necklace, "being the string" is an intentional way of thinking and behaving – making linkages between things that otherwise appear random or unconnected – whether that be supervising a staff, completing a dissertation or advancing a project in the workplace. I share daily leadership dots on my blog to provide examples of “the string” in action. I use the string philosophy through coaching, consulting and teaching to help others build capacity in themselves and their organizations. I craft analogies and metaphors that help people comprehend complex topics and understand their role in the system. My favorite work involves helping those new to supervision or newly promoted supervisors build confidence and learn the skills necessary to effectively lead their team.

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