Developing A Shared Vision

There are various approaches that have been suggested for the actual development of a shared vision that then is expressed in a vision statement (Blokker, 1989; Nanus, 1992; Rogus, 1990). Educators will undoubtedly adjust the steps listed below to their unique situation since there is a different focus when applying the steps at the district or school level. Four steps facilitate the conceptualization of vision and lead to its becoming a vision statement.
  1. Know your organization.
    During the initial phase of formulating a vision, it is important to learn everything about the organization as it currently exists. This corresponds to Manasse's concept of organizational vision, "a comprehensive picture of the existing system within its environment." She suggests that organizational vision involves a systems perspective to determine the components of a school or district and how they are interrelated. Boyd (1992b) provides a comprehensive list of contextual factors that influence the change process which can serve as a guide to knowing a school or district. It is important that a school leader understand the important role of a school's ecology - the physical and material aspects such as school size - and a school's culture - the attitudes and beliefs, norms, and relationships. Nanus (1992) suggests that "the basic nature" of an organization can be defined by determining its present purpose and its value to society. Knowing what a school or district is about and the reason for its existence is the first step in developing a vision statement. Knowing the collective understanding of an organization is the second step and includes the participation of constituencies.
  2. Involve critical individuals.
    The individuals or groups identified as constituencies include those that are the most critical, both inside and outside, to a school or district. These 'critical' individuals can be those who are essential, such as a representative of a major business in the community and those people who tend to judge severely, such as the consistently vocal parent. Consider the major expectations or interests of these critical constituents as well as any threats or opportunities that may originate from these groups or individuals. Educators should involve individuals such as students, parents, business leaders, and other community members. They should also ensure the participation of children advocacy groups that work with their students and major employers of their students, as well as representatives of post-secondary institutions that serve their students.
 The involvement of critical individuals often presents challenges to the development of a shared vision. Rogus (1990) suggests having the participants write their ideas before a meeting; identify consensus statements first and then grapple with non-consensus statements at the meeting. Remember that consensus is the absence of serious disagreement, not total agreement with everything. Aside from describing the organization and discussing its purpose, the group participates in discussing the factors that could impact the school or district.
  1. Explore the possibilities.
    In her definition of future vision Manasse (1986) advocates considering future developments and trends that may influence a school or district. Possible major changes in the economical, social, political, and technological arenas that will impact a school or district should be explored. Specific questions that educators should consider are:
    • What are possible future trends of students' needs?

    • What are possible future trends in parents' needs or requirements that will impact our students?

    • What are possible future expectations or requirements of our students from employers or post-secondary institutions?

    • What possible changes in social, economic, political, or technical areas will impact our organization?
The exploration of possible futures can be encouraged with the provision of literature concerning future trends. Another strategy that can assist participants to speculate about the future is to view and discuss videotapes that have been produced by futurists.

  1. Put it in writing.
    The final step is writing a clear and concise vision statement. This step uses all the information gathered and discussed, the descriptions of the school or district, as well as the predictions of future developments and trends that will impact a school or district. It flows from the discussion of the most probable future of the school or district. Rogus (1990) suggests using the consensus statements to begin writing the vision statement, getting one "last set of reactions," and having the total faculty determine its final form. This final step is the result of much discussion by the people involved and aside from 'distilling' the issues discussed, it focuses the group's attention to what they agreed upon and their united vision for their school or district. This vision then is committed to paper.