Purposeful Action starts with Vision

The following article is excerpted from a lecture by Prem Chopra at the University of Tennessee, Chattanooga in September 2006. The text of the entire lecture can be found in Masters of the Game: Reaching Beyond the Nexus to Success and Happiness.

Phase I of Purposeful Action: Vision, Reality Check, and Commitment

We begin with the first three steps of Purposeful Action, which comprise the First Phase.

The First Step is Introspection, to form and develop a vision. A vision is like a dream. It comes from within, as a consequence of deep beliefs, meditation, contemplation and even prayer. That is why we call this step Introspection. Have you ever dreamt of something you desired or something you wanted to do? That’s what vision is. The greatest actions in life are accomplished when there is a vision that inspires the actions. For example, Martin Luther King said, “I have a dream”, and his was a dream of freedom. Freedom was also Gandhi’s vision–freedom from British occupation. President John F. Kennedy had a dream of putting a man on the moon. When he first spoke of his dream it was not yet a plan; it was just a desired state. It would require time and a great deal of money to develop a space program, but Kennedy found a way to put a man on the moon. And that was Kennedy’s purposeful action. It started with the first step—a vision.

After developing a vision or a dream, Step 2 of purposeful action is a reality check. In this step, you look at all variables internal and external to your organization that would impact your dream. You assess your strengths, weaknesses, threats and opportunities. We call this step, Extrospection, which implies researching and looking without, just as Introspection means looking within.

Take the Toyota Motor Company for example. Toyota had a dream to seize a share of the U.S. automobile market. Their vision was to convince the American people that they could buy a low-cost, reliable vehicle built in Japan. But Toyota had to first perform a reality check. Their Extrospection showed that they could not initially penetrate the luxury and performance car segments that were dominated by American icons such as Cadillac and Corvette. So, back in those days, Toyota and Honda decided to sell small cars at a low cost. That was the result of their reality check. They saw that the American manufacturers were not offering small economical cars. Initially, to meet low price targets, the Japanese manufacturers chose to cut their production costs by using inexpensive recycled metals that rusted easily. This was a major quality blunder and they almost never recovered from it. Then, thanks to Mr. Deming and some competent Japanese managers, they measured their performance, performed another reality check and the rest is history. After achieving their early vision, with an eye on quality improvement and value, Japanese car manufacturers today are at the forefront of all segments of the automobile and light truck markets, including the luxury and performance segments.

The Third Step is to make a commitment to the vision that has been refined through the reality check. In the case of the Japanese auto manufacturers, it was first a commitment to produce and export economical cars. When they experienced quality problems which threatened their very existence, they revised their commitment to manufacturing reliable and economical cars. So, this became their new mission. Mission is what you commit to accomplishing in Step 3.

It takes courage to start any action, even after commitment is made. That is to say, it takes courage and fortitude to proceed from Phase I to Phase II of action.

Having set the target in Phase I, the archer is now ready to aim and shoot the arrow, in Phase II.

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