A Company’s Vision: Can it Pass The Elevator Test?

Is your vision for your company clear and concise enough that you can hold any employee responsible for explaining it in sixty seconds?  If not, you may not be doing your job.

Your organization craves clarity.  The individuals that operate your company on a daily basis crave personal relevance; understanding how what each does helps accomplish the company vision. 

The most effective test for clarity and simplicity is to be able to answer the question in the time it takes to ride from one floor to another in the elevator (or walk across the lunch room, or out to the parking lot).  Let’s use a minute and a half as a bench mark.

The elevator test question should be broad and its answer should be very focused.

Companies have developed acronyms and key words to help make the answer relevant and memorable.  But of course the most important component of the answer is that the response be genuine.

Though I don’t know him, I would venture to guess that when Gary Kelly, President and CEO of Southwest Airlines, heads across the tarmac with one of his baggage handlers, the answer to “what is this company all about?” would be firmly grounded in “the highest quality of customer service” (as stated in the company’s mission statement) and all of the relative decisions that are made based purely on that.  The vision is lived in a genuine way every day.

Bfq4A20CIAEKXsu2With the recent experience that I had flying across the country during one of the snowiest winters on record (my bag stayed an extra week in Chicago) I’d have to say that the people of Southwest still live this experience. Daily phone calls, even if they were, “we haven’t found it yet, but we’re still looking,” the final delivery of my bag—sans name tag or baggage ticket–and now, three unsolicited “Luv Ya” vouchers for $150 tell me that the mission is clear and genuine, both to the people and to the organization.

So how do you know if the answer you get is genuine and accurate?  Sure you can create a rhyme or a jingle.  You can print wallet cards and ask employees to commit them to memory.  But I would suggest you look for three elements in the response you receive:

1. An understanding of what makes you different from your competitors. Make business decisions based on protecting differentiation

2. Ask who butters our bread?  Know who the key customers are and how to take care of them

3. A look in the eye.  Confidence in the clarity of the answer and a belief in the cause.  If you don’t sense confidence, there is much work to be done

Of course the concept of the elevator test is nothing new.  But the due diligence of developing it, executing it and working to perfect it is something that is often left behind.  It’s an important part of a leader’s job, and one that will pay huge dividends throughout the organization.

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