Vision Conversations

What is it?

A vision conversation is a session where we create a vision on a topic where we feel we lack clarity and where we need a big picture for.

Vision conversations are meant to create clarity on “the bigger picture” around specific topic.

What do we need?

  • A visionary: the person/role asking the question for the shared vision or more clarity on an existing vision. This could be a group of people, a circle, or a role.
  • A group of people for the conversation; a maximum of 8 people;
  • A facilitator; somebody who is not also one of the 8 people taking part in the conversation;
  • A secretary; this can be one of the 8 people in the conversation or the facilitator, depending on the subject;
  • The Utopian; responsible for capturing and communication the vision
  • A (virtual) room;
  • Post its;
  • Pens;
  • Time;
  • An open mind.

Step 1: Intake

The intake takes place with only the “visionary” In this conversation, it’s important to get answers to the following questions:

  1. What is your goal of the session?
  2. The one question: which is the one question you want an answer to?
  3. Why do you want to answer this question?
  4. Who do you want to be part of the discussion? Which roles and which people should be there? Do you want an open invitation for participation for the organization?

After this conversation, the question and the why will be shared in a channel, including an open invite if necessary.

Step 2: Preparation

In the preparation phase, we survey the participants one week before the vision conversation. A reminder to the survey is often sent two days before the vision conversation. The goal is to collect information and to get the participants in thinking mode. Answers can be anonymous. If relevant, a bigger survey can be sent out to random people in the organization, or to the entire organization to get more feedback.

Possible questions for the survey:

  • How does this shared vision relate to our core values?
  • What is your definition of [topic of vision conversation]?
  • Why do we need a shared vision on [topic]?
    • How should/could clarifying/defining this vision help us as an organization?
    • Which problem (s) will this shared vision solve for us?
    • Who will benefit from this shared vision? Primarily, secondary
    • Do you think we need to agree on this vision and why/why not?
  • How are we missing out in the current vision or lack of vision?
  • Should this vision be quantifiable and if so how?
  • What do we need to maintain/sustain this vision/make it a reality/work towards it?
  • Where/how/what will this vision lead us in three years?

Step 3: The vision conversation itself

  1. Process; Explain the steps for this particular vision conversation.
  2. Check-in; Let everyone check in on the meeting. Clear the mind.
  3. Introduction; An introduction by the facilitator, including the one question we are here to answer and a summary of the outcomes of the survey. Setting the stage for the conversation.
  4. Clarifying questions; This round is for everyone to create clarity. on the goal and the why of the “visionary”.

The next questions may vary depending on the topic and applicability

If the survey suggests strongly opposing views:

  1. “My point-of-view”- round; Everyone may give their point-of-view on question. No reaction, period.
  2. Diving keep: The diving deep phase is very dependent on why we need the vision question answered and the approach can vary. Here are some examples of approaches depending on the why of the vision question.

Why: We want to find out if we have a shared understanding regarding this vision question.

  1. Does the survey suggest a shared understanding or not? If yes, great done :)
  2. If not, can we pinpoint the differences?
  3. How are these differences harming us at the moment?
  4. Can we align them or make things more clear to get to a shared understanding?

Why: We strongly disagree on the answer to this vision question

Discussion: The main purpose of the discussion is to get all the opinions on the table and see where they align and where they deviate. The purpose of the discussion is not to solve all tensions that surface because of the discussion. These tensions can be processed in the regular governance if needed.

The discussion has two parts:

  1. Differentiate: find possible answers which could work for you. There aren’t wrong answers.
  2. Integrate if possible: after a small break it is time to look for opportunities to integrate.

Why: We are confused about this vision question.

Make the picture more clear

  1. How is this confusion affecting us? Write the different parts of the ‘confusion’ on the whiteboard
  2. Do we see things we can clarify, in governance for example?

Why: We don’t have a vision (question) regarding this subject yet.

Determine the starting point, probably our core values/purpose and start from there

  1. How should this shared vision help us achieve our purpose/live our core values?
  2. What are things that should be prevented from happening by having this vision?
  3. What do we mean when we talk about [topic]?
  4. How do we live this vision?
  5. Input from a general survey to the company if relevant
  6. Can we start to formulate the first version of the vision that is good enough for now or do we need more information?

Why: The current vision is not clear enough and is not helping us make day-to-day decisions:

  1. How is it not applicable now?
  2. What is missing?
  3. Can these missing links be determined in regular governance or in the outlook process?
  4. Answer to the question

  1. Sum up: Did we reach an answer to the one question? If so, the facilitator tries to conclude all input into one answer. We don’t strive for consensus in this answer but for consent.
  2. Wrap up: The facilitator highlights important findings from the discussion that might need extra talking or thinking about or tensions that can be processed in governance. (permission for something to happen or agreement to do something.)
  3. Impact: Small round of everyone, including the question: what kind of impact will this answer occur?
  4. Closing round: reflection on the meeting without reacting to each other

Step 4: Aftercare

In the last step, the secretary puts the details of the conversations in the database and shares the link to the wrap-up in Slack. It might be that the Utopian add some slides to the vision presentation.

Historic conversations