Vision 2020

JFK set the vision statement to “put a man on the moon in 10 years”. 

At the time it was an extremely bold and crazy goal.  But it motivated everyone to push his or her talents to achieve the impossible. 

Without setting a vision statement, achieving the goal would never have happened. The man died, yet the goal got achieved. This was because everyone bought into the statement because it was so simple.  Had he had a three-paragraph mission statement like most businesses, it wouldn’t ever have happened.  A one liner got everyone focused. 

Often when I walk onto a farm, the first problem I recognize is that there is not vision for what the farm is going to look like in a decade. 

Each individual is foggy on the future and there is no consistent vision.  As a result, the family is not pulling in the same direction. 

It’s a lot like father and son crossing the Canadian border into the U.S. The son wants to go to Utah, skiing, the father wants to go Florida, to sit in the sun. The father is driving, first of all, and then the son takes over driving. The father sleeps in the car and the son instead of driving south the way the father was going, he switches direction and drives west. Then the father takes over driving. They don’t talk; the father just starts heading south. At the end of the week, they’re stuck in Muskogee, Oklahoma, without any money and stuck in a snowstorm.  I don’t know if you’ve ever been stuck in Muskogee but it’s nothing worth singing about!

This analogy can be applied to most farm families that I have to mediate.  The root problem is that the family doesn’t have a precise end destination.  They always end up in a spot no one wants to be stuck in and no one is happy.  Often the farm’s viability is in trouble. 

Had the two men compromised on a place they both wanted to be, they might have picked a place they both liked: Nashville.  The father would have liked to go to the Opry and the son would have had a good time out on the town.   They could have been there in 10 hours, instead of a frustrating week in the car.  Yet it takes a five-minute conversation to happen and on most farms, this never happens.    

One farm set a simple vision statement which said: 

Three families will together milk 300 cows at a 7 % ROI.”

This vision statement got everyone agreeing to the same end destination.  Every decision made, was then after made in light of the farm’s 10 year strategic plan.  For instance: 

  Instead of doing things “the hard way”, they continually brainstormed about how to cut 5 minutes from each hour’s task.      

One sentence got the family pulling in the same direction and eliminated much of the bickering.  Gone was the uncertainty of the future and all decisions could now be made under the same light.  Every decision from who is going to be living in the farm’s “hired man’s house” to what size of TMR mixer to buy was easier to make.  

Folks often treat vision statements as something lofty that is done to impress the bank or your “hippy neighbors”.  It should be something that your family does to get everyone agreeing to the same end destination.  It should be a simple one liner in plain spoken English which you and everyone on the farm will be able to mutter under your breath easily when making any type of decision.  Like picking a destination on a map, a vision statement get’s everyone driving in the same direction and happy with where you are going!