7 Qualities of a Great Vision

Stamats Insights

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When I work with clients on strategic planning there is a question that is always posed: what are the qualities of a great vision?

Over the years, I have learned that great visions:

  1. Are easy to explain to people within and external to the institution.
  2. Offer hope and excitement not just to faculty, staff, and students, but donors, alumni, and prospects as well.
  3. Provide general direction about the business you are in.
  4. Attract resources. These resources include both talent and dollars.
  5. Are executable within current resources.
  6. Pull people out of their comfortable orbits.
  7. Differentiate you from your competitors in a meaningful way.

Recently, as part of a project with a small private college in the Midwest, I asked board members to evaluate the following visions in light of the qualities presented above. Note the number in parentheses after each vision statement? That number indicates the statements word length. There seems to be a correlation between great visions and brevity.

  • Oxfam: A just world without poverty. (5)
  • Feeding America: A hunger-free America. (4)
  • Habitat for Humanity: A world where everyone has a decent place to live. (10)
  • Ducks Unlimited: Wetlands sufficient to fill the skies with waterfowl today, tomorrow and forever. (13)
  • World Vision: For every child, life in all its fullness; Our prayer for every heart, the will to make it so. (19)
  • Disney: To make people happy. (4)

Most agreed that the visions outlined above met the qualities we enumerated.

I then asked the board to critique the vision outlined below.

  • XXYYZZ College, a respected leader in ____________, will be nationally recognized for our commitment to student success and excellence in teaching, empowering learners to enrich the social, cultural, and economic vitality of our region and the global community.

Here are some of their responses:

  • “Too long”
  • “Could be anyone”
  • “Full of higher ed lingo”
  • “Is that ours?”

Of course, it’s not totally fair to compare the college vision with the visions of Oxfam and Disney.

Or is it?

I then presented the vision statement from Ithaca:

Ithaca College strives to become the standard of excellence for residential comprehensive colleges, fostering intellect, creativity, and character in an active, student-centered learning community. 



Offers direction.



All in all, a great vision.

So here’s the final question: How would your institution’s vision fare against the seven qualities outlined above?

If it falls short on more than one or two qualities, it might be time to revisit your vision.


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