Skip to main content
These tools can be used individually or in combination to assist an individual or organization during the analysis that precedes the development of a business case for an IT investment.


Visioning is a tool you use to establish an image of what you want your organization or project to look like in the future. The time frame associated with the vision depends on the needs of the group and may range from months to years.

What is it?

A way to stretch your thinking. Creating a vision is a way to stretch your organization and establish a vision of a "preferred state." Growth in terms of size or scope of operations may form part of a vision, but doesn’t always constitute a vision. The circumstances facing your group need to inform the vision. Being realistic is important, as is remembering the concept of stretch. Ultimately, the vision should guide or frame the work that all participants will need to do in order to accomplish the desired outcomes.

Various methods. The task of visioning can be completed in several ways. Regardless of which method you use, your main focus is to develop ideas. You must get everyone to share their ideas, reach a common understanding, build consensus, and craft a meaningful vision statement.

What is it good for?

Developing shared goals. Vision statements are often very good at "getting everyone on the same page." The process of constructing a vision statement involves discussions and interactions that will help the group reach consensus on ultimate goals.

Reflecting interests, needs, skills. Remember that vision statements should reflect your interests and be attuned to their specific needs and capabilities. Otherwise, the likelihood of accomplishing the vision will be greatly reduced.

Team building exercise. In short, a well-crafted vision statement that has buy-in from everyone involved is often a crucial first step in beginning any group project.

Some limitations and considerations

We've done this before. Almost everyone has been through a process like this at one time or another. Some of the most prolific buzzwords around involve the words "vision," "mission," "empower," and "group consensus." Depending on previous experiences, the level of cynicism may be very high when an exercise like this begins and may remain high even when a vision statement is developed.

Address skeptics. Perhaps the best advice is to directly address participants' cynicism. Let them know that they are in the room to make things different. Participants have to find a way to cooperate and take responsibility for the outcomes of their efforts.

Predict the future. The final pitfall associated with the visioning process is that people are often poor prognosticators. Time and experience may require you to revisit and modify the vision. The real key here is to see the vision as a dynamic statement and not simply a motto meant for hanging on the wall. Consequently, visioning should be used periodically as a project unfolds.

How to use visioning for a project

  1. Use a round robin facilitation format to elicit people's thoughts about the characteristics they want to see embodied in the project.
  2. Display all of the responses from step 1 (adhere them to a wall or project them to a screen).
  3. Clarify what is being expressed in each characteristics, but avoid debate at this time.
  4. Establish one or more small groups to take the characteristics and develop a vision statement(s) that reflect the key ideas.
  5. Encourage the full group to discuss all of the statements and begin developing a common vision upon which the group can agree -- this is when debate begins.
  6. Repeat steps 4 and 5 until you produce a vision statement that satisfies your needs.

For more information

French, W. L., and C. Bell, Jr. (1999, 6th ed.) Organization Development: Behavioral Science Interventions for Organization Improvement, New Jersey: Prentice Hall.

Kakabadse, A., F. Nortier, and N. Abramovici (1998). Success in Sight: Visioning. Boston: International Thomson Business Press.

Quinn, R. E., S. Faerman, M. Thompson, and M. McGrath (2003, 3rd ed.) Becoming a Master Manager: A Competency Framework, New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.