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VISION — The Oil of Your Organizational Engine

The power of an engine means it creates friction.

The problem with friction is that it kills engines.

Every engine generates friction, no matter how well engineered or manufactured. And, there are only two ways to overcome the destructive power of that friction: shut down the engine or use high quality oil.

I am a fan of Indy Cars. Those high-tech multimillion dollar marvels operate at 10,000 rpms. They fly around a two and one-half mile oval at speeds over 220 mph for 500 miles. That’s enough torque and destructive heat to tear those engines apart. Yet, with the miraculous lubricating power of oil they continue lap after lap.

Here’s the parallel. In any organization, the very things that create your capacity for accomplishment, progress, impact, etc. produce friction. That friction may be experienced as long hours, large-scale change, constant adjustments, personnel re-alignment, or even some form of personal conflict.

What if it is fundamentally impossible to make progress without creating a little heat? What if as the power of your engine increases—your capacity for great things—the heat you create increases as well? And, what if shutting down “your engine” to make all that friction subside is just dumb?

Every organization requires oil and that organizational oil is vision

True vision answers the questions that make sacrifice palatable; it brings perspective to hard work; and it provides a cause much bigger than personal preference. Vision has a way of lifting people’s attention to a higher plane. It gives everyone and every challenge you face a compelling reason. It is the ultimate “why.”

Without vision people are abandoned to the limitations of “duty.” Of, “should.” Of, “have to.” But the thing is, draw from the well of “duty” too long and you burn out. Duty will drain joy from your well. Vision, that clear picture of what you long to see happen, refills you well with imagination and hope.

Now, by vision I am not talking about the caricature of polished pointless words or some hair-brained idea out of touch with reality. I am talking about real vision anchored to reality in a way that marries real need to real solutions. Vision disconnected from reality is a fantasy. Vision disconnected from need is just another idea in a mind-numbing swamp of ideas.

For more, see my last post: Vision is not a statement.

If you lead a team or an organization and vision is remotely unclear, you have the organizational equivalent of an oil leak. It won’t take long and the friction of life will cause your engine to overheat. Before long you will be rebuilding an engine rather than using your energies to pursue the victory circle.

It’s time to be honest.

  • How specific is your vision?

  • Is your vision a compelling picture of how things will look if you succeed at making the impact you long for?

  • Can other people describe that picture their own way? (Whether they use the same words or not is irrelevant. Can they paint the picture?)

  • Are you one of the people who burned out on all the vision/mission emphasis of ten years ago? What will it take for you to reactivate your vision muscles?

  • If you don’t paint the picture, who will?

  • What’s holding you back?

One more comment. Some could ask, “Is Vision the Only Oil?”

I would say, relational health is also a lubricant. To be technical about it however, I would suggest that vision is the oil that keeps your engine running efficiently and relationships are the transmission fluid that connects your engine to your wheels.


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