Are Words Getting in the Way?

Recently we seem to have found ourselves caught up in heated debates with clients around the meaning and purpose of traditional business language—in particular, terms such as Vision, Mission, Ambition, Purpose, and Strategy, which appear to confuse people where clarity is required. A kind of paralysis results, and people are reluctant to do anything until the senior team have crafted the appropriate statements on what the organisation should do to achieve the prescribed "vision" or "mission"—or whatever word you would use.

All this reminds me of a quote from Dee Hock:

Given the right circumstances, from no more than dreams, determination and the liberty to try, people consistently do extraordinary things.—Dee Hock, 1999, Birth of the Chaordic Age

People will energise themselves around a cause that matters to them. So, how do organisations go about achieving a shared sense of purpose; how much direction do talented people need from the top in order to give their best; and what is the role of the CEO and the Executive Team in making "the dream" meaningful to all?

Sharing the carefully crafted "company vision" at the annual conference is a start and will be enough for some—those that have worked it all out for themselves anyway! To help people truly engage, then isn't dialogue more important than getting the words right the first time? Leaders who make things happen have a knack of keeping things simple. They talk to people about the future, listen to their responses, and engage in thousands of conversations in which people create their own meaning.