Move from Vision to Reality – Strategic Planning part 3

Is everyone pulling in the same direction?
Written for Farm Futures and originally published Nov/Dec  2023

“We’re family, and we work together every day. We know what each other wants.” This is often the unspoken thought for many farmers, and it’s logical reasoning. However, this logic makes several assumptions that can lead to misaligned priorities, confused employees, and sometimes conflict.


The problem arises not from what’s talked about but what isn’t.

Specifically the vision for the future of the farm.

We all know it’s impossible to foresee the future, so why even try?


It is more common than not that owners all have a vision of where the farm is headed, but their visions differ slightly from one owner to another. That isn’t to say the visions are far apart. Often, they rhyme but are far enough apart that there is room for confusion or disagreements.


That’s where crafting a Vivid Vision comes in.

The point of a vision is not to see the future but to envision what future success looks like so everyone pulls in the same direction.

A Vivid Vision answers this question: What does success look like in 3 years?

It describes what success looks like. It’s written in future tense as if it has already happened but with a future date attached. Why three years? It’s long enough to plan and execute but not so long as to become outdated or procrastinate. Steady, annual progress is what counts. What are the employees doing and saying about working there? What problems have been solved? What do the financial metrics show? What do you see when you walk around?


To answer what success looks like, there are a couple more supporting questions.


What must we get right?

What are the pillars, key activities, or outcomes that the farm must get right? This is usually a short list of 4-5 items, some of which you might already be doing.   But don’t lose sight of them. For example, one farm may see a need to increase its debt coverage ratio. Or lower the cost of production per bushel. Or improve herd health. The purpose of this list is not to lose sight of critical things when reaching out for new opportunities.


How do we behave?

Why is this question important? It details the culture you want. Families have certain norms, ways of communicating, decision-making, dealing with conflict, etc. Some of these norms are useful for the future, but some aren’t. For example, one family was used to making snap decisions with one or two other owners while riding around their pickup. But the farm grew, and now they don’t see each other as much. There are non-family in key roles such as human resources and accounting. They found that informal communication and decision-making were hurting the business and causing confusion. So they saw the need to create a more formalized culture.


Many Visions fail because they look too far into the future.

Another reason vision fail is they aren’t vivid but rather fuzzy. All visions should be written but also written so there is no doubt as to whether the vision has come true. They need to be vivid, clear, and concise. That’s why we use the term Vivid Vision.


A Vivid Vision paints a picture that is measurable, specific, attainable, and relevant.

It’s not a fuzzy dream.

From this vivid vision plans can be made by breaking the vision down into smaller projects, quarterly and annual goals.


The best part of a great vivid vision is reviewing the progress each year and checking off all the things you’ve accomplished. Farms often achieve their vivid visions on time. It’s not always easy to stretch for the vision, and it shouldn’t be. But it is unbelievably satisfying when the alignment of visions allows farms, employees and farm families to surge ahead as they scale or transition to the next generation.


Want to be kept in the loop when we have new articles or blogs?