Step-by-Step: Writing a Vision Statement, Part 2


As we mentioned in our last blog post, Step-by-Step: Writing a Vision Statement, Part 1, when our consultant asked the team to reduce each of our personal vision statements down to just three words, dismay was written on every face in the room.

How could we reduce such carefully constructed sentences to only three words apiece? The answer was that we couldn’t, and the consultant knew it.  He was forcing us to drill down deeper. We were each to choose just one noun, one verb, and one descriptive word from our sentences, an adjective or an adverb.

This was a tough assignment. But our team threw themselves into the task and soon enough, the job was done.

After this assignment, we wrote everyone’s three-word group on a white board, organized in lists of noun, verb, or adjective/adverbs. Then, the fun began.  The group worked hard to pare the many words down to a small group that best represented the whole. This involved:

  1. Looking at each of the words listed individually as well as grouped with the other words on the board list.
  2. If one word had been repeated multiple times, we made note of it. That signaled to us that the word touched an important value that was common to all of us.
  3. If words were similar but not quite the same in meaning, we discussed those differences. Was there a way to represent both concepts in a single word, or was one of the concepts simply not hitting the mark?
  4. If there was a word on the board that seemed to stick out like a sore thumb, it probably was an outlier, and we eliminated it.

We didn’t want to exclude anything that was important to anyone, but we also were mining the words for a common vision. It was a delicate balance, but the process felt exciting.

I could recognize my company in this cluster of words, but the words also told me how the people I had hired envisioned their work. This was important to me.

Next, the consultant directed us to create a new, single sentence — using no new nouns, verbs, adjectives, or adverbs. We weren’t obliged to use every word left on the board, but we were encouraged to capture the spirit of the whole. After reading these new sentences to each other, we voted on the one we liked best and, with a little more refining, used it as the basis of our very first vision statement. With very little tweaking, that vision statement is still serving us today — over 20 years later.

The statement our team produced on that retreat still serves us today because it possesses all the hallmarks of a good vision statement.

The hallmarks of good vision statement:

  • Clear; easily understood
  • Concise; limited to one sentence
  • Specific; presents concrete information
  • Broad; able to act as an umbrella for your business in times of change

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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