Page 2: What is a vision?
A vision enables an organisation to move forward with clarity. It links the business' specific objectives and targets with the core values that govern how the business will operate in order to meet those targets. It therefore goes further than a mission statement.
A mission statement sets out the purpose of an organisation. For example, for Virgin Trains, this is to run a high quality, efficient and cost-effective rail service. A vision goes further. It paints a picture in clear language of where the organisation is going, linked to the behaviours it expects of everyone in the organisation.
Virgin Trains' vision is: “To become the most safe, consistent, reliable and profitable of the train operating franchises in a climate that respects different views and people need not be afraid to be open and honest”.
This is a very clear vision:
- It sets out the values of the company, e.g. safety and reliability.
- It sets out clear commercial targets profitability.
- It sets out the relationship between the organisation and its people respecting different views and encouraging openness and honesty.
This vision reflects Virgin Trains' forward-thinking style. This may stand the company in good stead in any future franchise bids.
Vision and organisational culture
Linked closely to vision is the organisation's culture. The culture of an organisation is the typical way of working within an organisation as demonstrated by the behaviours of the people that work for it. This includes how approachable managers are, how they treat subordinates and care for customers and how formal systems and procedures are.
A clear vision enables an organisation to change organisational culture in a positive way. The organisational culture at Virgin Trains is one that places customers and their experience of travel as the main priority.
Virgin Trains' management believes that this is best secured by listening to employees. Senior managers at Virgin Trains believe that in such a geographically stretched organisation, change needs to be suggested and implemented by those at local level because those people know what changes customers are asking for and need.
Virgin Trains believes employees working directly with customers not only have the technical skills but also the commercial awareness to make a difference. An example of this was the provision of toys in waiting rooms to help keep children happy whilst waiting for connections.
Managers positively encourage employees to get involved in running the company by asking questions, challenging ideas and being prepared to disagree and suggest better ways of working. For instance, employees challenged Virgin Trains to increase its commitment to sustainable development by reducing its carbon footprint. Virgin Trains now encourages recycling in all its offices and trains.