There has been much talk about Vision over the last few months and one outcome of the 2005 Board meeting in Perth was the presentation of a discussion paper on Society Vision and the declaration of such a Vision by our Board. This Vision statement will feature increasingly in Society communications.
The concept of a Society Vision is almost guaranteed to elicit opposed opinions. Many will consider it a touchy-feely nonsense while others will believe it fundamental to the future of the Society. In my experience there tends to be little in the way of a middle ground.
In the same way that the Society needs a vision, we all need an individual vision if we are to progress and develop ourselves, our careers and our futures. It is desirable that our personal vision sits comfortably with the professional vision we hold. Without that concordance there is unlikely to be satisfaction or reward flowing from our professional activities.
Vision is important in the context of providing a goal towards which our efforts can be focussed. Whether that goal be achieving excellence and recognition in our work, a craft or retirement by 50 the appropriate vision will inform the decisions made along the way and increase the likelihood of our achieving our goals. As with any endeavour, progress is only made by stretching ourselves. Just as the athlete improves his or her performance by pushing the limits, so too we need to set a vision just beyond reach - today. Tomorrow the vision will hopefully be just within reach. A successful vision should be attainable - but only by raising the bar.
There is a flip side to holding a vision and that is frustration. If the goal is set too high, then failure is guaranteed. If you are pursuing a vision that is out of step with others around you, that too is likely to end in frustration and anger. This darker side of vision has to be managed. I believe that periods of frustration are essential in determining whether a vision is appropriate. A vision, whether personal or public, must stretch us and there will be times when we fall short of our vision. If we did not, then our vision is set too low and is not achieving what it should. These periods of despair, however, need to be seen in context. Perhaps the best way to do this is to apply the principles of performance management to our vision on a regular basis. Just as regular staff appraisal ensures the professional growth and development of our teams, so appraisal of progress towards a vision pits achievements against disappointments and keeps things in context. If the balance is tilting towards disappointment and frustration then your vision needs attention perhaps. If there is nothing but achievement then the bar needs lifting.
Defining a vision is not an easy task. Putting it into practice is even harder. Making it work - tough is the only way to put it. Embrace the vision that has been defined by your Board and make it work for you and the Society - if it works for you, then it will work for the Society. At the very least give it a go and assess in 6 months whether it has helped you focus and added a new dimension to your professional life. The Society vision is not something for the senior members alone but something that has to be embraced by all. The senior members have to facilitate the vision, but you all have to demand the resources to make the vision a reality and, more importantly, use them when they are made available to you. Together we can continue to raise the bar and truly lead our profession, I believe internationally, through the 21st century and beyond. We have a lot to be proud of.