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How to Create Powerful Shared Visions

flip chart 2.0

Image by velkr0 via Flickr

Peter Senge describes “building shared vision” as “a practice of unearthing shared pictures of the future that foster genuine commitment and enrollment rather than compliance.” His description and application applies, not only to teams and organizations, but also to couples, family units and any group of people that comes together for a common purpose. I want to share a fun and dynamic methodology to make shared visions real and meaningful for all the participants.

The characteristics and benefits of shared vision include:

  • Visual portrayal of everyone’s  “picture of success”
  • Focus on collective and mutually beneficial future outcomes
  • Everyone’s voice is heard, respected and acknowledged
  • Visibility of the group’s values that help guide “high road” behaviors
  • Stakeholder buy-in, commitment and involvement
  • Group and organizational performance excellence and sustainability

This practical neuroscience method has been field tested extensively with groups ranging from 3 to 50 people. The group participants may be a family, social organization, church committee, board of directors, sports team, business department or an entire organization. The process can be replicated multiple times in an organization to cover hundreds or thousands of people.

The Basics

  • Every group member willing to participate is included without exception.
  • The meeting room should accommodate all participants to sit in a semi-circle, stand and move about. Less than 30 participants at a time are recommended to allow for maximal participation and keep sessions under 2 hours.
  • A large, smooth and unobstructed white board or wall, with space to post 7-10 flip chart pages, is required in front of participant seating. The flip charts are where the participants place their shared vision notes.
  • Each participant is given an 8 1/2” X 11” paper with 6-8 colored Post-It notes. Additional Post-Its are available upon request.
  • A skilled, non-participating facilitator, known for open-mindedness, flexibility and non-judgment should lead the session.
  • No interruptions or questions are allowed when participants share their “pictures of success.”
  • Order of participation is voluntary; everyone participates.
  • Pre and post-applause for all participants is recommended.

The Process

  1. The facilitator welcomes the group and explains the process and ground rules for sharing. Post-It notes and colored pens are provided for all participants.
  1. Each person records a single idea of his or her vision, picture and description of success, per Post-It note. Description may be a key word, short phrase, value, headline, symbol, color, image, outcome, book, movie, song, event, award, number, dollar amount, sound, feeling, picture or virtually whatever comes to mind. Maximum of 12 ideas per person.
  1. Pre-Applause for first volunteer. First Post-It is placed on any one Flip Chart page and said aloud for everyone to hear. Subsequent ideas are placed next to similar/associated themes or on a separate flip chart if the idea doesn’t seem to relate to the others. Post-applause with no comments or questions.
  1. Pre-applause and post-applause for subsequent volunteers until all participants have shared their vision of success. The process reveals a colorful galaxy of “cluster pattern” themes that constitute the group’s “shared vision.”
  1. The facilitator invites the group to walk around the flip charts for a closer look, name the themes and realign individual notes. Themes may include legacy, values, goals, customer benefits, team benefit and so forth.
  1. The facilitator asks the group if any theme should be dropped because it is less important than the others are. All the groups I have facilitated say all themes are connected and equally important; this response is ideal and should be expected. The facilitator asks the group if they feel their voice has been heard and respected.  Finally, participants are given the opportunity to voice their takeaways and closing comments.
  1. The flip charts and Post-It notes are photographed, transcribed and distributed to each participant. This process continues until all smaller groups, constituting the larger group/organization, have gone through their shared vision sessions. It is strongly advised that the materials be transformed into a colorful mind map for daily viewing, communications, meetings and events. The mind map should be magnified to poster size and hung in large reception areas or other areas where people learn, work and communicate. Smaller versions are made available for every participant.

In conclusion, implementing a “shared vision” session is immensely rewarding for all participants, their organization and the people they serve and interact with. The process connects each person’s mind, body and heart in a respectful way. It brings people together to work with shared purpose, common goals and desired outcomes. Creating a shared vision builds morale, trust and cooperation; it leverages the brainpower and heart power of the group for outstanding and sustainable outcomes.

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