Friday, February 19, 2016

Elon Musk, Vision and Your Organization

The life of a consultant means you get to travel places and see things you might otherwise not see.  This morning I was in Miami.  As I looked out my hotel window, I saw a Metromover go by and being in Florida, had thoughts of Walt Disney and his dream for transportation in his original vision of EPCOT.  This got me thinking about Elon Musk and his various ventures and promotions - SpaceX, Hyperloop, and Tesla Motors.  Should his vision come to fruition, a more accessible version of Disney’s transportation system would be available to many.  Imagine if you will stepping into your electric, autopiloted car and riding to the local Hyperloop station.  Perhaps boarding with your car, you are whisked across a significant portion of the continent to catch a sub-orbital flight across the globe or to access the space stations some of us dreamt about as kids.

I’m sure I’m ascribing some wisdom and planning to Mr. Musk, but connecting the dots (something evaluators love to do), a vision emerges.  The goal?  Transforming transportation.  I will admit that I am a fan of people that leverage their talents, ideas, and funds to affect positive change in the world.  I think that is why I enjoy my career as much as I do.  But often, I encounter organizations and leaders that have lost their vision, or perhaps said better, have been so wrapped up in the day-to-day management of their organization, programs, and products, that they loose their connection with their vision.  Worse, I’ve encountered organizations that do not have a vision.  The best indicator of an organization that has lost or never had a vision is that when you look at their programs and products, the process of connecting them together under a concept or simply just together is neigh impossible.

This large disconnect could result in inefficiencies or ineffectiveness.  The reason why I say it could is that many organizations without vision lack measurable goals to be able to assess efficiency and effectiveness.  With no connection, at best, you can only look at each program or project, but without the interstitial tissue formed by the vision and organizational goals, it is difficult to pull them together and understand the impact of the organization.  Often, the disconnect with vision is the result of organizational or program creep, which has resulted from seeing a need.

As an evaluator, I’m often asked to measure impact and I find that we are spending time building these linkages.  In some cases, an implicit vision emerges.  However, there are often orphan programs or products that do not fit the core of the organization.  These orphans tend to individually be anemic in results and at best contribute in a small way to the larger effect of the organization.  In the business world, Apple’s Pippin is a good example of an orphan.  On the surface, it seems to be a reasonable product that is tied to the vision of the organization.  However, at the time, Apple’s vision was to be a computer company, not a digital platform and content conduit.  One could even argue that their PDA product, Newton was another orphan.  But, when Apple’s vision and associated organizational goals changed, similar products, the iPod, the iPad, and iPhone all connect well.

As an organizational leader, do you know your organization’s vision?  Is it your vision?  Do your programs and products tie to this vision?  If you are considering organizational impact, they need to tie.

As always, I welcome your thoughts and feedback.  Please leave comments with your thoughts.

Warm regards,

The Evaluation Evangelist

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