Most vision statements suck. There I said it.
They are too bland or too basic to inspire change and commitment. Here's one that gets it right and how it reflects the characteristics of a vision that can actually influence an organization's results:
To create a building that contributes back to the health of the planet.It's challenging
—David Hertz, Architect
Right now we see buildings as consumers, not contributors of resources from our planet. Changing this relationship will require fresh thinking and significant innovation over a long period of time.
Interest in renewable resources, sustainability, and social responsibility continues to grow. The compelling nature of this vision will engage people from diverse professions and industries in applying their best thinking toward a worthy result.
This vision passes the "wouldn't it be great if .... ?" test. Regardless of people's position on climate change or sustainability, a building that positively enhances the health of the planet would probably be seen as desirable and worth pursuing as a goal. Knowing you're helping make this vision a reality is likely to be a source of pride.
It's sufficiently specific, yet appropriately broad
The vision is specific enough to help shape individual decisions—Which choices would most ensure this building contributes to a healthy planet?—while remaining appropriate broad in the strategies or tactics for realizing it. In short, the means are open and flexible to achieve a sufficiently specific end.
It benefits others while still serving self
A healthier planet is a gain for everyone, but it clearly is of interest to architects, builders, and other related professions who have a vested interest in achieving it. By contributing to a greater good, the people involved also will benefit.
Contrast this to the typical association vision "We want to be indispensable to our members." Or, "We will be the global leader in ______" Huh? So the most inspiring future you can envision is one in which your members are tethered to you in a dependent relationship or you're king of the hill?
What would members be capable of doing if the association was delivering indispensable value? How would the world be better off if the association was that indispensable? What more desirable results would your association's indispensability enable that otherwise would not be possible?
Associations must dream bigger and beyond their internal value when it comes to the visions that drive their strategy. Otherwise, their indispensability will remain nothing but a big dream, or some might even say, a hallucination.
For some great resources related to visions and BHAGs (big, hairy, audacious goals) see Jim Collins.