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  • Writer's pictureRiikka Tanner

Paint Your Vision in Red

We have all been there. Doing a lot of busywork which seems to be pointless. Targets and end goals are nowhere near in sight. My first question to you is that do you even know what it is that you need to achieve?

Vision statements are vague enough and you may be taking actions that are aligned with that vision but how do you know if you are making any real progress, how to keep momentum going and stay motivated?

The number one reason any (digital) transformation program fails is lack of vision or lack of strategy – or both.

Especially when we are talking about large scale transformations or goals that span over several years, it’s hard to stay on track, measure how you are doing and to stay motivated over time. And as much as I am not a big fan of five year business plans, I do acknowledge that every business or organization needs to have their North Star.

To support the transformation, we need to go beyond vision statements and create a vision that outlines key objectives as well as high-level tactics on how to get there.

Let’s play reverse

The one thing all project managers master over time, is planning backwards. If we know the (desired) outcome and have a specific date when that outcome needs to be in place, we can pretty accurately determine what needs to happen, in which order and when exactly for us to make it to the end. The old world used to talk about milestones, new one prefers to talk about sprints and retrospectives.

Goals are important but making progress visible is much more important. That’s why it is so damn important to break you end goal into more easily attainable goals. Whatever it is that you need to achieve, my advice to you is this: Chunk it. If you have a big goal somewhere out there three to five years from now, what are your five steps to achieve that goal? To achieve a certain step, what needs to be in place? What are the steps you need to take to reach the next level?

Get specific

I can’t stress this enough. You need to get specific. I don’t know how many times I have heard things like “We need to boost our new customer acquisition” or “We want to double our growth on this segment” etc. While the latter statement is better in a sense that it actually holds some specific measure, it’s far from perfect. Work one step back at a time starting from the end: “For me to have reached this objective, it means that I have succeeded in the following” and then list all the things that need to have taken place for you to meet that one, specific objective.

Paint it Red

Having a plan can increase your chances of success by 30 % and as an added benefit, it will take out most of the stress and pressure as you are not constantly thinking about what to do next. Sure, plans change, agendas change (as they should) but the end goal, your true North Star – that shouldn’t change. If you want to achieve big things, your five steps to success should be pretty bold too. But laying those out so you can see them and design criteria for each of them is essential in making progress visible.

Using a tool can help. I like tools that are simple, easy to visualize and fit on one page so for designing vision you could try this 5 Bold Steps Vision® Canvas. You can download your own canvas and instructions how to use it from

5 Bold Steps Vision® Canvas from

This canvas tool fits perfectly together with planning backwards strategy. There is only one goal and five steps to reach that, can’t get much simpler than that. It’s effectively painting your vision in red by taking big, bold steps. I have incorporated this tool into my planning hacks by giving myself only ever five steps. It forces me to focus on correct things, necessary things. And then naturally plan design criteria for each of those steps to reach the goals but that’s a topic that deserves a post of its own.

So there, your turn. What are your next steps if you only get five?

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