INTOUCH : Visionary thinking

Here’s refreshingly different way to create an organisational vision and mission statement – paint it, don’t write it.
That is exactly what Kerridge and Partners, an aggressively growing three-year-old Auckland-based executive search and leadership development consultancy has done.
The company sees itself as “next generation” search firm so, in the words of its founding director Peter Kerridge, it has adopted next-generation strategic visioning, planning and execution processes.
Out of this mindset came the idea to paint vision statement rather than slavishly struggle to wordsmith sentence or two that not everyone can buy into and which also runs the risk of being constantly forgotten or seldom referred to.
“This approach provided way to engage the whole team in the (visioning) pro­cess,” says Kerridge. “We now have graphic vision of the business which includes most of the key components of our present approach and aspects of our future, both seen and unforeseen. Everyone can look at this painting and say ‘I contributed that’.”
The company employed an external artist who spent day off-site with employees, partners and the firm’s non-executive director to render concept which, as it happens, includes key words.
Kerridge partner Chris Johnson thinks the process de-coupled the management jargon of visioning and allowed everyone in the enterprise to “draw picture of the organisation’s future and what it means to them”.
“Vision statements are often jargonistic. People say it, but don’t live it,” he adds.
Kerridge thinks written vision statements disenfranchise as many people as they embrace.
Kerridge and Johnson saw the process as catalyst for establishing the company’s strategic plan. It got people to think, become engaged and “below this sits our strategy”, says Johnson. “It drops down into four or five key strategic imperatives for us. That’s where the words that helped create the picture are important.”
“We now have bolder, more courageous and more far-reaching strategic plan as consequence of this process,” says Kerridge. “This stretched our thinking about what we might and can do.”
Kerridge and Johnson believe the approach delivers sense of ownership to all staff. Everyone talks about it and regularly discusses what aspects of it mean. It hangs on the boardroom wall and is “constantly in everyone’s face”.
It also provides “great introduction conversation” for client, says Johnson. It encourages them to talk about who and what the company is, what is important to it and where it is headed.
Working with the artist, Carol Green, was also helpful. Her involvement with individuals helped tease out their thinking. She created series of images from the discussions and then the team prioritised the images to help Green position them in the painting.
“It is mostly about engagement,” says Johnson. “Everyone – employee, director or client – can be engaged in the picture, in our vision,” he says. “It is interesting and engaging and that is the tricky bit with any vision statement, getting people to talk about it at grass-roots level and to have sense of ownership.”
“It is also about the feeling our clients have about our brand,” says Kerridge. “We are unquestionably solid and dependable but our clients also see us as next generation, and this approach to conveying what we are about sits comfortably with the sense of difference and edginess they have about us.”

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