FINCH: Vision

By Curt Finch MOISD Superintendent

One of the currently perceived responsibilities of a leader is to establish a “vision” for the company, organization or cause. From that vision, the workforce or volunteers rally around the objectives to live out that vision.

Jim Collins, internationally recognized business researcher and author of a best-selling book series about the life-cycles of organizations, believes we may have this backwards.

Over the last nine years I have studied the principles in these books since the seven core beliefs relate well to schools, hospitals and churches which Collins refers to as the “social sector.” An interesting point behind the book series is that much of its content was written around the Great Recession; “Good to Great” and “Built to Last” were written before, “Great by Choice” was during the recession, and “How the Mighty Fall” came after. Jim Collins and his Stanford graduate research team had a front-row seat on how these principles stand up to significant economic scrutiny.

Vision for an organization can be difficult to surmise. According to Collins, company vision is a delicate balance between core ideologies (what we stand for) and an envisioned future (what we aspire to become); vision needs both pieces to be useful.

Social sector organizations have historically struggled with this concept since there is an internal perception of outside forces controlling their organization – regulation, legislation, etc. True vision should not, and cannot be, changed by outside groups; it is the very fabric of the organization – it is why they exist.

Social sectors are service oriented and people deliver the product; people (board members, administration and staff) are the key to the formation, implementation and execution of vision. Collins proves that putting a vision on the wall is not the secret, but finding the right people who have a “disposition towards the vision” is the difference between a “good” organization becoming a “great” one; if you have just a “good” system, you probably have “good” staff that lack training and/or don’t fit the vision.

As an administrator in a social sector organization for the past twenty years, I’ve always believed this principle, but never understood the critical nature of choosing and/or promoting the right people.

Social sector systems have historically struggled with exiting people for improvement, but times are changing – especially in Michigan. With student numbers decreasing, resources dwindling and economic growth forecasts looking slower, administrators are taking more time to think about how to make the right choices for personnel.

Staff choices are the single most important factor administrators make towards the formation of a successful system. Is your goal to take your organization/company/cause from “Good to Great” and make it “Built to Last?” If so, double your efforts on getting the best person for each opening, not settling for a temporary fix, and focus on promoting/training potential leaders within your organization. Great people make Great systems with Great vision.

Dr. Finch can be reached at and followed on Twitter at CFinchMOISD.