Shared Vision

Of course, a vision is not an immortal abstraction, impervious to change. It, too, may change as a project progresses through its life cycle, especially as stakeholders and the environment change. Hence, project leaders ensure that visions not only have the characteristics just discussed, but they must also be based on feedback regarding changes in the environment in which the project is being executed.

Perhaps the biggest challenge facing project managers when developing a vision for their projects is getting stakeholders passionate about it. With passion they will likely invest the necessary time, energy, and emotion in making the vision a reality.

The key is to share in a vision's development, that is, to elicit participation in its construction. The idea is to have each stakeholder formulate a vision that links to the project's. A shared vision will not make it just "their vision" but my "own vision." People then have a passion for the vision. As Covey notes in First Things First , a shared vision creates a passion and synergy that releases energy and talent, creating an order all its own. Trying to control, however, often creates just the opposite result. [3]

Of course, passion requires focus for achieving a vision. Although what Shakti describes is on a personal level, his comments also apply to projects in which vision, passion, and focus mix in a way that creates dramatic results. Shakti notes that imagination creates a picture and through "creative visualization" a person realizes that picture through focus until the picture becomes a reality. [4]

Unfortunately, many visions lack buy-in and commitment of key stakeholders on the same level of a personal vision. Instead, visions often reside in the minds of a few individuals and, consequently, have value only to a limited number of people. A few individuals proclaim it and assume that it generates the level of meaning and passion to others. Many visions, consequently, then sit on a shelf, sometimes even forgotten by the original authors. These projects end up having a "life of their own" and lack focus. When completed, the results frequently have no relationship between what was wanted or desired and what was actually delivered.

To develop and implement a vision for their projects, project managers should seek involvement and commitment regarding the vision of their projects. While most project managers would agree that a vision for projects is very important, few appreciate the need for involvement and commitment. Instead, many project managers accept a vision that someone else developed or they develop one alone. Either way, few stakeholders have any input into it.

Consequences can be severe without involvement and commitment. Stakeholders treat the vision as some type of remote abstraction, meaningful only to a select few. A small number of people may refer to it while planning and executing a project. That encourages a sense of rising expectations, leads to a lack of emotional commitment to its realization, leaves the opportunity for different interpretations that cause scope creep, mistakenly interprets silence as acceptance or concurrence, or leads to nonproductive arguments over semantics.

Obtaining consensus over a vision is not an easy task and perhaps that is the reason many project managers avoid it. There are many challenges including: verifying that a vision's contents are valid and reliable; interpreting contents differently due to varied backgrounds and perspectives; overemphasizing some aspects at the expense of others; disagreeing over what constitutes an achievable goal and objective; succumbing to pressures to accept a vision because it is quicker and cheaper; failing to distinguish wants from needs, resulting in "satisficing" through the life cycle of projects; and not defining and controlling scope.

For project managers, the project charter is the principal mechanism to identify the vision of a project. Its contents should identify the principal stakeholders, major milestones, goals and objectives, expected deliverables, major assumptions, risks, constraints, major responsibilities, and any other useful information.

Consensus, of course, is easier said than done. Stakeholders vary in perspectives, mental models, or frames ; sometimes they have a self-interest orientation, e.g., WIIFM (what's in it for me); conduct rivalries for visibility and resources and may have competing projects; and operate according to hidden agendas . In addition, project managers must deal with history of poor project acceptance and performance due to "politics," splintered and unenthusiastic customers, and low morale ; inclement economic conditions; poor availability and lack of sharing information; bad timing in general to put vision together, e.g., downturn in employment; and an atmosphere of distrust . If not enough, project managers must deal with the pervasive presence of informal networks that can help or hinder defining a project vision. If a vision is not clear or meaningful it can also lead to disunity and weakness in response.

[3] Stephen R. Covey, A. Roger Merrill, and Rebecca R. Merrill, First Things First , Simon & Schuster, New York, 1994, p. 219.

[4] Shakti Gawain, Creative Visualization , Bantam Books, Toronto, 1985, pp. 2 “3.

Leading High Performance Projects
The Photoshop CS2 Speed Clinic: Automating Photoshop to Get Twice the Work Done in Half the Time
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