Shared Vision - Guide to Working With Others

A shared vision is a way for people to create a joint vision for a shared goal. If you are starting a business with a spouse, friend or family member, you will want to use this tool to help you create a joint vision that is understood by everyone. It can be shared with family members and friends to help them understand what you are planning, especially as you consider the impact on their lives.

This tool does not replace the need for your own unique life vision. It’s meant as a supplement. If you’re starting a business with someone else, you both should also have your own individual life visions mapped out before this.

The shared vision is supplementary to your life vision because it is a way to figure out how your goals intersect with the other person’s goals. If you each don’t already have individual visions, your shared vision will be fuzzy. So start this exercise only after you've completed your individual life visions.

A shared vision helps you figure out if you both are moving in the same direction and why, what each of you want to get out of this joint venture, how each of you envisions this thing, and how it will change your lives. It’s meant to increase understanding between people starting off on a journey together so there are fewer misunderstandings along the way.

Basic Instructions:

1) Using big paper (poster size is good) and put your set of key questions on the wall (one question per sheet. Leave most of the page blank. There’s a starter list of key questions below these instructions.

2) Give each person a set of stickie notes (Post-It or similar, 3” squares work well) and a dark felt-tip marker (my favorites are black Sharpies).

3) Each person reads the questions and puts their answers on the stickie notes, using 1 stickie note per thought. This step is done silently by each individual. For example, if the question was “what do we need to do to prepare to start a business together?” some possible answers are: create a business plan, purchase equipment, decide on roles, create a website. Each of these items would be on a separate stickie note. The reason this step is done silently is because you want everyone to come up with his or her own answers. That way no one dominates and everyone’s thoughts get captured.

4) Once each person has put their thoughts on the stickie notes and feels like they’re done, stick the notes up on the flip chart under each appropriate question. If the same answer applies to more than one question, make additional stickie notes with that same thought so it’s indicated under each question.

5) Once everyone is done you can group similar items together. Look over each question and group the stickie notes if there are similar ones. You can put similar answers beside each other on the paper, or link them in a chain. Don’t throw any answers away if there are duplicates. The number of items that are similar give you good insight to the importance of that train of thought and especially show where there is good agreement. You can streamline later.

6) Go through each set of questions and answers and have a discussion to clarify thoughts, ask questions, notice important things that hadn’t occurred to you, etc. If there are any items where there seems to be significant disagreement, these are areas for further discussion and follow-up. You might need to ask some additional questions to fully understand the issues – but don’t ignore disagreements. It’s much better to get good understanding now rather than later.

7) When you’ve got agreement on the shared vision by reviewing all the answers, one person can volunteer to formally document the questions and answers. It can be put into paragraph form, similar to an individual descriptive vision, and reviewed again until each of you are satisfied that it represents your shared vision. A review of the document will give another opportunity to address items where there are still some disagreements.

8) The completed shared vision documents your agreements and goals and can be used to communicate with family and friends about what you’re doing, and it can be used as guidance as you move forward together to help keep you on track with your shared goals.

Here are some questions to get you started. Add to or edit these questions as you wish:

1 Why are we doing this? What is our purpose?

2 What do we want to see/do differently in the future? What is the high level vision?

3 How will starting this business help us to get to this future state?

4 What kind of activities do we envision will need to be done to get to the future state?

5 What kinds of processes do we need to create or change to get there?

6 What kind of work behaviors will need to change?

7 What skills and abilities do we already possess that will help us?

8 How does this new business fit with other things we are doing?

9 How do we envision our lives and work will change as a result of this new business?

10 What additional resources might we need to achieve our vision?

11 How will we know when we’re successful?

12 What specific behaviors and outcomes will prove that we’re successful?

Here’s an Example to help you see how this would work for a “winter” shared vision.

My husband and I want to live in Bali for 3 months each year to escape the dreary Pacific Northwest winter and catch some sunshine and warmth. We both have separate businesses that are mostly portable. He’s a freelance writer and speaker. I’m a virtual career consultant and travel photographer.

We adapted this set of questions for our shared vision to live in Bali and continue our careers from there during the winter months (mid-December through March).

1. Why do we want to live in Bali and do our work from there? What is our purpose?

2. What is our high level vision for working from Bali (rather than from our home offices in the Pacific Northwest)?

3. How will living in Bali help us to achieve our purpose?

4. What do we need to do to prepare for living & working in Bali 3 months a year?

5. What kind of processes (work, living, home) do we need to change to be able to live in Bali 3 months/year?

6. What work behaviors will need to change for each of us?

7. What skills, abilities, and technologies do we already possess to help us?

8. How does this fit with other things we are doing in our individual businesses (workshops, mentoring, research, etc.)

9. How will our lives and work change as a result of living in Bali?

10. What additional resources might we need to achieve our vision of living in Bali 3 months/year?

11. How will we know if we are successful with this change to Bali?

12. What specific behaviors or outcomes will prove that this was a successful change (that it was good for us)?

You can see from this example how to adapt the questions for your situation. These questions are guidelines, not a blueprint. Be flexible, add or revise questions and have fun. You’ll be surprised by how much clarity this exercise provides around your shared vision and goals.

Good luck!

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