HD Future Picture: Defining Your Purpose, Setting Your Mission, and Guiding Your Actions
It’s not easy to paint a vision of something as complex as an organization, with all the uncertainty of the future, and all the possibilities available. What would you include, and what would you leave out? Your organization’s vision, the high-definition future picture, or what we call the ‘High Definition Destination’ (“HDD”), is your mountain. It answers your purpose, explains your mission, and guides what you should be doing now. It’s not so detailed that it limits people's creativity; nor is it so fuzzy that it allows creativity to prejudice performance. Just right, so that a team leader on a mission can make a judgment call that their mission may no longer be heading for the HDD.
The High-Definition Future Picture Elements
There are certain elements and considerations that will help define an organisation's high-definition future picture. Here are the five elements, and their component dimensions, that can be used to guide us through what may be important to an organization. It may not be the only way of looking at things, and your own organization may have more or fewer elements or express them differently. But I offer them to you as a strong place to start:
- Competitive position. The markets we’re in (businesses and geographies) are multiplied by our profile in them (our business model, competitive advantage, and brand).
- Productivity. The skills our people have (their lived experience and inherent and learned abilities) are multiplied by their will in using them (the culture, engagement, and benefits we can offer).
- Entrepreneurship. Our capacity for innovation (culture, autonomy, R&D) is multiplied by our appetite for risk(controls, standards, processes, ratios).
- Capital productivity. The financial capital we invest (debt, equity, reinvested revenue) is multiplied by the return on that investment (ROIC, margin).
- Asset ownership. Our legal structures (legal entity, employee shares, mergers and acquisitions growth) for the assets we own(businesses, property, infrastructure, intellectual property).
Elements such as these define an organization and can guide focused planning and action. A traditional, broader vision complements the HDD well: you do not have to replace what is treasured. But you will find it extremely hard to execute your strategy unless you have an HDD in place. You can use a performance framework like Flex to develop an HDD, or you can test the vision you have and fill in the gaps. Either way, there’s work, very achievable work, to be done.
The elements: Clear, measurable and achievable
Just as a mission or project objective needs to be clear, measurable, and achievable, so too do the elements of the HDD. That’s the surest way to prepare for the mission objectives is to be aligned with the high-definition future picture, which is the whole point of the mission. For example, take entrepreneurship. The HDD might call for your company to be known for creating ‘next generation‘ products. What measure might indicate that you’re on track? You might hold that 20 per cent of each year’s revenue flows from products launched in that year.
As with mission objectives, the components of each HDD element should be absolute, not relative to a market or an economy. Make them about your sales, not your rank in the market. Markets are not zero-sum games: company performance is in part dependent on industry performance, and both you and your competition may do extremely well in a year that’s good for your industry. Put a stake in the ground with specific numbers, rather than calling for ‘more than last year’, and adjust those numbers with each year’s strategy cycle as you need to.
You can see how similar the dimensions of an HDD are to mission objectives. They are the very peak of the mission objectives, the targets and destinations to which all the other objectives are aimed. But just like mission objectives, there is nothing in them about how those dimensions will be pursued or met. That’s for the teams at the highest level of the organization to decide, with their decisions cascading down through the teams at every level. As we’ve seen, the discrete elements of the HDD each contain a small selection of measurable objectives. So in a sense, setting a company’s HDD is remarkably similar to mission planning.
Building the Now, Working Toward the Future
Setting your company's HDD is simply about putting things in place now, so that as you work for the future, you have measurable guidelines that keep you updated on your progress, and where you need to be heading next. It isn't as difficult as it sounds, start simple and identify clear, measurable, and achievable goals for the future. Once you have this, you're well on your way to creating your HDD.