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Cost cutting is not a vision

Expedition climbing is a demanding sport that requires me to make a lot of sacrifices. I have already spent enough money on mountaineering to buy a house. I have already invested enough time in mountaineering to build a house on my own. For me, it is crucial to know why I am doing this. The answer to that question may well be ambitious. Or as one of my favourite sayings sums it up nicely: 'If your dreams don't scare you, they are not big enough.' An ambitious dream inspires me to choose what I will do, but more importantly, to also choose what I am willing to give up in return.

Not only individuals dream. Organisations equally need an answer to ‘why’ and call it a vision. An ambitious vision gives the inspiration to make strategic choices and sacrifices. Based on your vision, choose the challenges you want to take on, but also the challenges you want to quit because they are not in line with your vision.

Transformations require sustained, major effort from everyone in the organisation. Digital transformation is not just about implementing new IT infrastructure or reorganising your IT department. It means reinventing your entire organisation, charting new routes and abandoning old paths.

The challenge for organisations is to create a huge dose of commitment to take that leap into the unknown and also to sustain it. After all, in any transformation there are endless obstacles. Too little manpower, too busy, different priorities, not the right tools... Without a vision, the inspiration to overcome obstacles and make the transformation a success is lacking. Organisations that cannot inspire work hard without making much progress.

All layers of the organisation need to be on board.  Successful transformation is based on a vision that creates added value for the organisation as a whole. It transcends individual departments. An overdose of separate changes leads to stress and change fatigue. A clear vision can help you focus and integrate change. By doing so, you not only avoid conflicts between departments, but also connect people within your organisation.

In transformations, I often notice the consequences of a lack of a clear answer to the question ‘why’. Many organisations don't get much further than wanting to focus on their customers, gain market share or reduce costs. Reducing costs may be important, but it is not a vision. I know few people who are inspired by savings and certainly not if the savings mean that their job is compromised. The vision you can realise with the savings can inspire people, though.

So before you ask people to leave their comfortable tent in base camp to slog through the deep snow in the bitter cold, let them dream about the feeling of victory at the summit. After all, people who are inspired about where they are going will more easily let go of where they are today.

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