Step-by-Step: Writing a Vision Statement, Part 1


“Vision without action is merely a dream. Action without vision just passes the time.
Vision with action can change the world.” ~ Joel A. Barker

Like most start-ups, our company began with a Big Idea, a growing vision, a few friends and a small budget. Although our vision wasn’t fully developed, The Big Idea and initial sales were strong and carried us for many years as we pursued our mission of leading education that positively affects learners.

Eventually, though, the need for a clear and focused vision caught up with us. And when it did, we knew it was our job, as company leaders, to blaze the trail.

“Leadership has a duty to clarify the company vision.” ~Harvey Dean

In order to help us pioneer, we hired a consultant. By having the consultant in charge we freed our leaders to talk, think and dream like one team.

So what were the first steps to creating a vision statement?

  1. The consultant brought all of our most prominent company leaders together for a half-day retreat.
  2. With everyone together, the consultant gave an inspiring presentation on the power and importance of vision. He asked each of us what was most important to us about our company, and which ideals we considered essential. This encouraged some very productive discussion.
  3. The consultant then asked each of us to write one sentence that would capture our personal idea of the company vision. Everyone had their thinking caps on by this point, and each team member put a lot of effort into their sentence. When the sentences were finished, the consultant asked everyone to read their sentences aloud to the group. Some were short, some were long, and a few were real doozies. We were all very proud of our statements.

But what came next was painful.

After complimenting us all on a job well-done, the consultant asked each of us NOW to reduce our beautiful sentences to only three words.

“Everybody should choose one noun, one verb, and one adjective or adverb to keep from your sentence,” our consultant said, “and no more.”

All the faces in the room reflected a kind of dismay. How could we reduce our well thought-through sentences into just three words? The answer was that we couldn’t, and the consultant knew it.  He was forcing us to drill down deeper.

This was tough and no one liked it a bit. But as it turned out, it set us up to do our best work of the day. In Part 2, we’ll describe how the “three word exercise” led us to create a focused yet concise vision statement that guides our success today and every day, and has for over the past 20 years.

For more information about how to write a HOT vision statement that will stand the test of time and guide your team to success, see the chapter on “HOT Vision” in my new book, The HOT Plan™, available here in eBook, softcover, and color hardback versions. For special bulk pricing (10 or more books), please visit Follow us on Twitter @thehotplan or FaceBook, or visit for more details about The HOT Plan.

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