Creating A Vision

There is a woman who works in development at a large university. She has a team that raises money for the medical system. She describes how she is going about the process of creating a shared vision.
About a year and a half ago, I accepted a new position and was assigned seven employees. Prior to my arrival, they had been a part of a larger group that had gone through an extraordinary amount of change in management, organizational restructuring, and support.
I sensed that the group might be willing to experiment applying your exercise of envisioning and defining them as a positive organization.
We organized a 2½-hour mini-retreat with lunch and held the meeting in one of the newest and medically advanced buildings on campus purposely, where new ideas in scientific discovery take place and where the windows overlook the medical complex–our territory.
I asked them ahead of time to complete the exercises. “What key words and phrases describe our team? When are we at our best? Write a definition of what our team might be as a positive organization.”
I read my vision of our higher purpose, “Philanthropy means the love of humanity, the desire to promote the welfare of others.”
These words resonated and became part of our theme for the day.
They took the exercise to heart and the large white board was overflowing with new words that none of us had expressed before: “truth becomes more important than power”; “recruit for values”; “train for skills”; and “take risks” and “we may fail, but we learn.”
We shared combined larger phrases and came up with five different viewpoints of us as a team, as a positive organization. We read out loud to each other; here is one of them.
“An environment where individuals are empowered to be kind, curious, and creative, while working in teams to support and motivate each other to achieve a common vision.”
Since then, we combined the words and phrases, weighted them, and came up with two Wordles, designed in Michigan colors, and disseminated them to the team to display our purpose, for daily inspiration.
Future meeting agendas will print these at the bottom of the page. Next our team plans are to take key words–like “honest and transparent”–and articulate a larger definition and what this means to us.
Words expressed after doing this exercise included, “For the first time, I felt valued for my contributions,” and “I enjoyed this experience with my team.”
The philanthropy mantra has been disseminated at one of our faculty meetings and the ultimate compliment, used by one of our long-respected faculty leaders to begin his presentation at an international conference.

  • In conventional organizations, process like this one tend not to occur. Why?
  • What aspects of the described process do your find most impressive?
  • Why is the process extending over a long period?
  • How could we use this passage to create a more positive organization?


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