Monday, February 13, 2012

Sad Cat Not Sad - Visions That Matter

(image from

I just got back from facilitating a board retreat with a client of mine in Florida.

One thing we focused on was the vision of the organization and what it should look and sound like.

Look at the above image.  According to the internet gnomes who put this meme up, "sad cat is sad." (I think we can all agree, that is one sad cat.) Now think about the messaging from an animal rights organization.  Do you think this fictional vision statement helps?

"Our vision is to craft solutions to comfort animals who are in distress, danger or otherwise live in compromised situations. We work together collaboratively with other groups and coalitions who also put the welfare of animals first.  Our team focuses on the creation of appropriate goals and metrics that ensure we meet the needs of the animals we serve and achieve outcomes based objectives that will improve their lives. We treat animals with integrity, respect and care and those values will permeate our organization both internally and externally both in our dealings with and our communications to the public."

Instead, what about:

 "We envision a world where every cat is happy."  

Doesn't every other conceivable thing flow from there?

Admittedly, this is a ridiculous example that I used just to make a point.  But on a more serious note, I truly believe association executives, staff and volunteer leaders need to take the time to simplify their reasons for being.  It is actually harder to boil these huge vision statements down into one sentence. Nobody who works with this stuff says it is easy.  But it is so worth it.

Sad cat not sad.  Now THAT is a future worth fighting for......


  1. I love this example - I think it's perfect. :) And you're right. That is a future worth fighting for. Way to go, Shelly!

  2. RIGHT ON! Too many vision/mission statements are full of incomprehensible consultant-speak. If you can't say it in a sentence that a five-year-old can understand, keep editing!

    (Well, OK, maybe an EIGHT-year-old...)

  3. This is what I always liked about the core purpose element of Built to Last. It gets your mission or vision down to its essence. If I remember right, they suggest you take your existing statement and do the Five Why test asking five times: Why is this important or what is the value of this?

    On a purely technical note, your wonderful revised example sounds to me like mission or purpose instead of vision. It's the business the group is in rather than an a future aspiration they hope to achieve.

    But it is an excellent example of what people can do if they just strip away all the artifice. And as you note, the strategic questions immediately start to come to mind. I love this statement because it also can help individuals connect tasks they are doing to this deeper meaning: what am I doing today that will help make sad cats happy?

  4. Jeffrey - great point, you are right that technically I was off the mark on the statement so I have updated it today...."We envision a world where every cat is happy..." :D

    Thanks for stopping by and I appreciate the support!


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