The vision thing in plain English

Vision, Mission, Te Papa thumb print
Today I'm just going to quote a big dollop from Over the net and on the table, Jim and Mary Barr's art blog.

Why? Because I've never before seen such a clear, simple, useful definition of the corporate vision.

Mind you, I've never investigated what a vision ought to be. The vision statements I've seen on office walls have usually embarrassed me and often nauseated me, so whenever I see one, I discreetly turn my back.

But now—oh, so there's a point to the vision thing? Great! I can learn from this.

Warning: this quote is loaded with attitude to Te Papa and relates particularly to art museums. But it makes perfect sense too for our business and your business too.

Essentially a vision statement is big picture and describes an organisation's hopes for its future, usually with a big dollop of inspiration to motivate the troops. The mission is then the roadmap to get there. From a quick scan, museums are not big on visions. If they articulate a vision (and many do not), they tend to opt for statements about doing what they're doing but in a bigger building (Tate Modern) or going short and general (MCA Sydney 'Engaging with contemporary art and ideas') or long and general (National Gallery of Australia in Canberra 'the cultural enrichment of all Australians through access to their national art gallery, the quality of the national collection, the exceptional displays, exhibitions and programs, and the professionalism of Gallery staff).
An effective vision is supposed to show how an organisation's future will look different from its past and it needs to start with a realistic understanding of where it is now. Working that out it probably what's going to take the time. There are big questions for Te Papa to deal with. Take its incarnation as a mega-scale, very pricey children's museum (is that what we signed up for?), its inward focus (who'd know the rest of the world exists?), its ongoing struggle with art and its fundamental sustainability.

If you want to tell whether Te Papa's new Mission and Vision statements will create a positive difference, you only have to ask a couple of questions.
• Are they easy to understand and remember?
• Do they make sense to people outside the organisation?
• Are there sensible ways to find out whether they are on track?

When the new version hits the streets we’ll apply these three simple tests and see how they go.

See the rest of Over the Net and On the Table

And then there's Scott Walker's lovely video of Te Papa — the vision process:

Rachel McAlpine
Rachel McAlpine


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