Based on my experience, I feel all the above findings have merit. While I will not agree that a poor or nonexistent vision contributes to all of the problems on projects, I will say that it adds to many of them and the magnitude of their impacts. I also feel the above lists are incomplete. A poor or nonexistent vision can also cause a lack of focus on priorities, not determining priorities and thereby treating everything of equal performance, overlooking explicit and implicit elements or factors affecting projects, setting unrealistic goals and objectives, allowing scope creep, enabling biases to dominate thinking, causing negative conflict to surface, and, perhaps most importantly, sacrificing that Wow! experience that Tom Peters advocates the need to experience on projects.
However, I do not believe that the ultimate cause is a poorly defined or missing vision. Rather, it is a lack of leadership by the project manager to develop a shared vision that provides destination and meaning to stakeholders.
Many of the general leadership theorists emphasize the importance of leaders to provide a vision for an organization. Kouzes and Posner, Bennis and Nanus, and Gardner are prime examples of theorists and practitioners emphasizing this need. So, too, do project leadership theorists and practitioners like Briner, Geddes, Hastings, and Gadeken.
Without having a clear, definitive vision, the consequences are quite obvious. But what about having a vision? What are the consequences?
Many. To a large degree, they provide the opposite effects of an ill-defined or missing vision.
Perhaps most importantly, a vision augments the efficiency and effectiveness of stakeholders by providing meaning, generating commitment, obtaining buy-in, encouraging collaboration and communication, reducing conflict by clarifying priorities and values, sharing and understanding different perspectives, laying the groundwork for building processes and procedures, raising and framing issues and questions, offering a basis for communication, identifying of value most or all stakeholders, establishing rapport, laying the foundation for harmonious working relationships, and building greater trust and synergy.
The actual process and effort to develop vision also adds value. Values include challenging assumptions to determine their relevance and accuracy, identifying and addressing risks early, defining the purpose and scope of a project, involving key stakeholders, creating a common baseline for developing plans and controlling projects, raising and addressing business and technical issues, pinpointing potential opportunities for coordinating projects, and, perhaps most importantly, reducing the negative and augmenting the positive effects of decisions made early on a project.