What is Vision and Why Does it Matter?

The drama began on October 4, 1957.

It’s one of history’s most compelling examples of the power of vision. That was the day Americans looked into the night sky and realized they had been beat into space.

Sputnik 1 was the first man-made object to orbit the earth. In light of the United States’ spectacular failures to do the same, it signaled Soviet domination of space and freedom’s failure to win the cold war.

Four years later, however, a visionary president declared to Congress that his country would land a man on the moon and return him safely to earth by the end of the decade. In spite of that very president’s assassination and some stunning NASA setbacks, the Apollo space program did just that.

Vision = Cause + Target

What made this vision so compelling? What made it so effective? Two key elements: a cause and a target.

The cause of the NASA space program in its earliest days was the triumph of freedom over totalitarianism, of democracy over repression. The target was getting a man on the moon by the end of the decade. These two worked in concert together.

The cause fueled the target and gave it a motivating reason to reach it. The target gave the cause a specific focus, a measurable goal that embodied it. Without a cause, targets become punitive and oppressive. Without a target, causes become hopelessly idealistic. Every cause needs a target to energize it, and every target needs a cause to inspire it.

VISION.Cause.TargetIn your company, your cause is the way your business improves the lives of its customers. It’s the way in which you make the world a better place. It answers the WHY question for your employees and asks them to pour their heart and soul into their work.

Employees also need to be focused on a specific how. In fact, if they can’t see a clear line of sight from an ideal to a goal, they won’t give their best effort. Target answers the HOW question and gives your people something to aim at, a very specific finish line to sprint toward.

Why Does it Matter?

On July 20, 1969 Neil Armstrong slipped out of his Apollo 11 lunar module and declared to 450 million people listening worldwide, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” The crew returned safely to earth four days later.

MORE: The 4 Phases of Fulfilling Your Vision

And that’s why vision matters. Vision changes everything. It utterly transforms an organization from merely maintaining the status quo to achieving that which is truly extraordinary.

I have a plaque on my desk that summarizes this process in five simple words. They are a call to find your cause and to set your target.

The five words? Dream it and do it.