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Element 7. True North

This can be one of the most powerful elements of the framework. What do I mean by True North? Some background first.

True North differs from magnetic north, which varies from place to place and over time due to local magnetic anomalies. A magnetic compass almost never shows true north. In fact over millions of years, magnetic north has wandered considerably and occasionally reversed, so that the magnetic north pole has been near the geographic south pole at some periods in the earth’s history.

Finding True North is essential for accurate navigation. Hence the metaphor. In life’s journey we are often uncertain where we stand, where we are going and what is the right path for us personally. Knowing our True North enables us to follow the right path.

True North is non-negotiable, and it will never change. A route map is of little use in the frequently changing landscape of our times. A good compass, however, always points north no matter where you are. Only if an organization is focused on its own True North, will success follow.

To achieve True North years of effort will usually be required. It should be beyond anything the company can currently do. Almost certainly, you will be uncertain as to whether True North can ever be achieved. Sometimes called ‘big hairy audacious goals’, these are the statements that really power the vision. Some examples?

· Make $1 billion profits within three years. (When you currently make $100 million.)

· Become the most highly recommended agency in the country by the year 20XX. (When you have only just started.)

· Become the dominant player in the industry and create world-beating products.

· Crush our biggest competitor.

· Be Number One in every market we serve.

Here are some real examples: –

· Amazon: Every book, ever printed, in any language, all available in less than 60 seconds.

· Ford: Democratize the automobile.

· Hewlett-Packard: Be one of the best-managed corporations in the world.

· Microsoft: A computer on every desk and in every home.

· Nokia: Connect 5 billion people by 2015.

· VISA Europe: Be the world’s most trusted currency.

Just to be clear, there should be a difference between your True North, your purpose and your vision. Your vision, really, will be an articulation of your three-year business plan. Your purpose will be the reason you exist, stated as a benefit to customers or consumers. Your True North will be a long-term, possibly even unattainable, goal.

All elements of the vision framework must interlink and support each other. For example, all your values should clearly support your vision and your purpose. Your behaviours should be clearly linked to the achievement of your strategic priorities. When you have this degree of coherence in your vision framework, you will be able to create coherence throughout the organization.

When completed, this vision framework becomes a one-page manifesto for change. Although it might be too high level to be specific enough, when teams translate high-level strategic priorities and objectives into specific objectives more relevant to their own areas of work, you create the alignment to your goals through all levels of your organization. Managers must discuss this manifesto with staff and ask the question: What is our version of this manifesto, and how will we help to deliver the corporate goals?

Your vision framework is the fuel for the conversations that can supercharge the pace of change and power the whole organization to success.

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