If I could make one word more of a mantra for leadership teams, that word would be “envision.” I define envision as to paint a picture of something that doesn’t yet exist—to imagine or foresee. When your leadership team invests the time to clearly define what is possible, what you’re looking for, and what good looks like, your whole department can operate more efficiently and effectively.

When you do a good job of envisioning what you’re looking for (and articulating that vision), it allows the management layer to add their value in designing the solution, which sets up the working layer to succeed in building it. An organization that invests in the cascade of envision, design, build gets work done right the first time.

Unfortunately, leadership teams spend woefully little time envisioning.

They Confuse Goal Setting with Envisioning

Some leadership teams stop at setting goals and never actually envision what it would look like if they got there. This is especially problematic when leaders use quantitative goals as rallying cries such as, “We need to get past 50% market share.” A goal is useful, but it’s not sufficient to guide the next layer of work.

They Drop into Design

Some leadership teams spend their time actually designing (or worse, building) the better mouse trap. That’s adding value at the wrong level and it means the layer below loses their chance to contribute. Plus, they stop paying attention to the more mission critical issues while they’re getting so hands-on solving the problem.

They Let Entropy Reign

Some leadership teams abdicate their responsibility for guiding activities altogether. They dole out tasks without providing any direction or guidance, thereby setting up their team to disappoint them. Still somehow, they’re always surprised when the team comes back with work that doesn’t hit the mark.


So, what does it mean to envision? Let’s take the example of needing a new order entry process. To do your job of envisioning you could…

  • Anticipate what is changing in the environment both externally and internally that necessitates a new order entry process
  • Define what the new order entry process needs to achieve and what good and bad outcomes would look like
  • Scope what should be included and excluded from the project

Your job in envisioning is to filter the limitless possibilities and focus the organization on the desired outcome. Include the information that the next layer will need to design the new system. For example:

  • What should the customer experience of the order-entry system be? What should the employee experience be? Which of those is more important?
  • At a high-level, what functionality does the process need? What do you need it to do? What must be included? What are the nice-to-havesand the too-rich-for-our-taste   guiderails?
  • How many intersecting processes should be examined? Is the desire for the team to just fix the processor do they need to build the system as well?

When you envision at the leadership team, you have the opportunity to test out different ideas, to put tension on the ideas by exploring the request from different perspectives, and to get aligned around what you’re asking for. This investment of time up front will improve the quality of the deliverables, decrease the likelihood of rework, and reduce the friction caused by leadership team members who were misaligned about the ask.

Adding the right value as a leader is critical to leading an effective and efficient organization. Get out of the weeds and stop solving, building, and fixing. Invest the time up front to envision what you’re looking for and then get out of the way so the right people can design and build the solutions you need.

Further Reading

How can I be seen as more strategic?

Strategy execution needs to be more inclusive

The Surprising Source of Most Trust Issues


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