The concept of a vision has always been confusing to me. The problem lies in the fuzziness of the word that ostensibly indicates anything on the spectrum from mission, purpose, values, to strategies, goals, or objectives. Due to this confusion and because of the multitude of contexts that the word is used in, for a majority of the time, the word ‘vision’ is just a buzzword.
The HBR article “Building Your Company’s Vision” by James C. Collins and Jerry I. Porras went a long way towards elucidating the concept of a company’s vision for me. The combination of a core ideology attached to a visualization of the future is a difference perspective on a corporate vision.
I shall primarily focus on the core ideology here. The notion of a core ideology guided by a set of unchanging core values and a core purpose best encapsulates the reason for a company’s inception and continued existence. The oft quoted, run-of-the-mill reason for a company’s reason for existence is profit maximization. The alternate reason for a company’s existence as being indicated by the core human values is a key component in identifying a vision. The element of human values that an organization as a whole stands for and operates in accordance with makes an organization’s vision, purpose and functioning more relatable and easier to ascertain.
Over time, companies have increasingly understood their vision in terms of core values and purpose and have departed from a vision that emphasizes the products or services they offer or the idea that they exist to maximize profits or shareholder return. I find this most easily reflected in organization slogans and their evolution. As organizations have expanded and focused their visions, organization slogans have evolved from functional calls to more abstract, existential ones.
Coca-Cola provides the best example here. Coca-Cola’s corporate slogan has evolved from “Drink Coca-Cola and enjoy it” in 1886 to “Refresh yourself” in 1924 to “The sign of good taste” in 1957. Recently, Coke has moved onto abstract iterations of their corporate slogan: “Life tastes good” in 2001 to “Open happiness” in 2009. Currently, they have settled on “Make it happy”.
FedEx provides another pertinent example. FedEx’s corporate slogan has evolved from “When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight” in 1978 to “Our most important package is yours” in 1991 to the current “The world on time”. Even nascent companies like the Middle Eastern Emirates airlines are following this trend. The Emirates slogan changed from “Fly Emirates” in 2004 to the current “Hello tomorrow”.
The humanistic element of core visions tying company visions to their day-to-day operations is something that I find most easily reflected in and relatable to their corporate slogans, and their evolution makes it easy to identify organization purpose and vision.