When choosing a book to read, I often rely on the titles ascribed to each chapter. These intrigued me. “A Proper Ending”, “A Real Beginning”, “You Can’t Get There Unless You’re Here”, “From Success to Significance”, and finally “Creating Your Own Vision”. The chapters in between promised insights into that final chapter with guidelines for guiding my own team to create a Team Vision.
What brought this book to life was the characterization of the subject. Instead of taking a clinical approach to extracting statistics and examples from case studies and displaying them in visuals, Jesse weaves facts and strategy into a relevant story. I’ve read a number of books co-authored by Ken Blanchard over the years, and true to form, this book followed the same parable style taught through the expertise of strong leaders with impeccable character.
Jim is the CEO of the insurance company where Ellie begins her business career in the accounting area. This caught my interest because I, too, started my career in accounting of an insurance company. The vocations are immaterial to the remainder of the book because the premise of the book is predicated on building a team vision. The storyline makes it relative, the characters make it memorable.
Through dialog between Jim, Ellie and other characters, we are introduced to concepts of what vision is and how it’s defined. An example I will never forget is the epiphany Ellie had when Jim told her that Disney is not in the Amusement Park business, but instead is in the Happiness Business. Disney didn’t tell his people how to achieve it, but instead described the end result. His vision was for every guest to leave the park Happy. “The power of a picture works when you focus on the end result, not the process to achieve it.”
Through the next few chapters, Ellie and Jim have recurring conversations that become building blocks that Ellie uses to lead her team through the process of writing a vision statement. Jim is the coach and the sounding board, giving her resources like books to read. Ellie is diligent in searching the library and Internet for appropriate sources such as prominent companies who don’t just talk about sound ethics, they practice them; organizations that have a deep, noble sense of purpose.
What resonated most with me were how the key elements of a vision statement are defined and linked together to be practicable. A compelling vision has: Significant Purpose, A Picture of the Future, Clear Values.
“Purpose is understanding why we exist, what business we are really in.”
“Vision is knowing who you are, where you are going, and what will guide your journey.”
“Values are deeply held beliefs that certain qualities are desirable. They provide guidelines for our choices and actions.”
“Purpose tells why. Picture of the future tells where. Values tell how.”
I was a little disappointed in the title of the book because there are already a number of books by the title Full Steam Ahead. But in the final chapters I had a better understanding of the reason behind the name. Jesse Stoner describes in detail how to construct, communicate, and practice (live out) a vision statement. Full Steam Ahead describes what your team is capable of once they have their heads, arms, and heart wrapped around their Purpose, Values, and Vision.
When you buy the book, don’t skip anything. There are examples in this parable to be understood and applied in the end where there’s a Game Plan to simplify the exercise and you will also find a Vision Test with Scoring Key to see how close your team is to having an effective vision.