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A Clear and Elevating Goal (Vision)

One critical ingredient of a successful collaborative effort is the development of a common vision that captures the ultimate purpose and direction of a team’s work. A vision is a description of a team’s preferred future. It answers the question: “Where does the team want to be long into the future?” Because visions are expressions of optimism that are lofty and compelling, they pull teams forward, and help to inspire productive work and action. A vision does not describe how it will be achieved and it does not include action steps. Rather, it concisely articulates a team’s ideal destination.

A clearly articulated vision can be a useful tool to a team that encounters challenges in its day–to–day work. For example, when disagreements arise among team members, a review of the team’s larger vision can be a helpful way to refocus members on the “big picture,” and to move past the specific issue or challenge they are facing which so often is tangential, or even totally unrelated, to the vision. Alternatively, a well crafted vision often refocuses team members on the ultimate destination—and the values it represents—and facilitates focused discussion on, and resolution to, difficult issues.

Our nation’s history is filled with lofty and compelling visions. Leaders in various fields (e.g., politics, civil rights, sports, environment, etc.) have used visions to inspire those with and for whom they worked. The following are some examples of visions from our history:

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: We hold these truths to be self–evident that all men are created equal. (Martin Luther King, Jr., August 28, 1963)
Down the long lane of history yet to be written America knows that this world of ours, ever growing smaller, must avoid becoming a community of dreadful fear and hate, and be, instead, a proud confederation of mutual trust and respect. (Dwight D. Eisenhower, January 17, 1961)
Together let us explore the stars, conquer the deserts, eradicate disease, tap the ocean’s depths, and encourage the arts and commerce. (John F. Kennedy, January 20, 1961)
The great American forest, since our nation’s founding, has provided the resources to build our homes, our schools, our churches – it has provided the inspiration for our philosophers, our poets, our artists. Working together we can continue to improve, enhance and protect this great natural resource to help ensure that we have healthy forests with clean water, clean air, abundant wildlife, wilderness, and working forests in harmony with the needs of all Americans for the generations yet to come. (7th American Forest Congress, proposed vision statement)

Similarly, collaborative teams across the country that are committed to making their communities safer and improving upon the way in which justice is administered in their jurisdictions have developed visions to guide their work. The following examples serve as illustrations:

Everyone Safe at Home…Families Free from Violence! (City–based multi–disciplinary collaborative team working to coordinate services and activities related to the investigation, prosecution, and management of perpetrators of domestic violence)

We are committed to creating a county that is absent of juvenile sex offenders and their victims, and where:
  • All sexually aggressive youth and their families have access to a comprehensive continuum of very high quality services that addresses their specific needs, reduces the likelihood of further abuse, and enhances community safety;
  • All victims (children, adolescents, and adults) and their families have access to appropriate services and support; and
  • Comprehensive sexual abuse prevention and education services exist in every community. (County–based multi–disciplinary collaborative team working to improve the way in which the juvenile justice system responds to and manages juvenile sex offenders and their victims)

Tools for Teams

Click here for a teamwork exercise that will guide your team in the development of a vision statement.

Click here for a teamwork exercise that will guide your team through a discussion of its values.