​Converting high-level visionary rhetoric into action

In July 2020, the Government launched a plan to boost primary sector export earnings by $44 billion over the next decade through the release of Fit for a Better World - Accelerating our Economic Potential. This roadmap is intended to unlock greater value from the sector and is premised on the Primary Sector Council's vision around the principles of Te Taiao that defines our relationship with nature.

In its vision statement the Council states:

' Alongside innovative science and technology, we are designing modern regenerative production systems fit for a better world. Within a generation they will be the foundation of our prosperity and the way we produce high-quality, trusted and healthy food, drinks and fibres. These outstanding products will speak of our land, oceans and people. They will be enjoyed by people all over the world, fulfilling their desires for functionality, wellbeing and aesthetics.'

When discussing the Council's vision with members and farmers, it has been interesting to observe the general lack of knowledge of either the Council's future vision for the primary industry or the publication Fit for a Better World - Accelerating our Economic Potential. Maybe there is a sense of deja vu all over again where we see a plethora of new transformational visions and strategies across the primary industry that promise so much, yet deliver very little, or worse still hastily disappear when lofty milestones fall apart.

The ability to convert high-level visionary rhetoric into action has been occupying my mind of late. This is particularly the case as we are seeing more and more policy settings and public funding drivers being aligned with the Council's vision, which has struggled to gain traction within the primary industry or provide meaningful clarity about how it will be applied in practice.

Creating a vision for the future is becoming more important for the primary industry sectors as we look to navigate a pathway forward on many challenges faced by New Zealand's farmers and growers, including increasing environmental pressures, changing market dynamics and increased societal demands, to name some.

So what is needed to take action and make a vision a reality? In looking at what is needed to successfully transform a vision into reality the following elements seem to be commonplace, including:

1. Can we see the vision clearly - creating a visual image that inspires and excites stakeholders around the vision is critical. If the vision lacks clarity or cannot be easily articulated then it will struggle to be realised.

2. Who is going to own the vision - leaders need to own the vision. They should be able to inspire trust and belief that the vision is attainable to get the required buy-in from stakeholders.

3. Focus on the mid-term as well - describe the intermediate goals over the next three to five years, as annual goals are too tactical and long-term goals too abstract.

4. Believe in the vision passionately - a passionate belief by leaders in the vision will provide stakeholders a sense of purpose, dedication, direction and endurance.

5. Pursue the vision relentlessly - a vision is something that must be continually communicated to stakeholders along with articulating a pathway and actions to achieve the vision. This is not a one-off exercise and must be vigorously pursued until the vision is achieved. [1]

In developing a vision for a business or industry we are often guilty of believing the job is completed once we come up with the vision statement, and then hand it over to others to interpret what it means or how it should be applied in practice.

Establishing a vision for the primary industry is never going to be easy given the diverse range of stakeholders, sectors and politics involved. While opportunities do exist in developing and implementing a vision underpinned by Te Taiao principles, these need to be led by passionate leaders who can clearly articulate the vision and pathway forward, and who can inspire trust and belief that the vision is attainable and then relentlessly pursue it to completion.

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[1] Dan Oswald: Making Your Vision a Reality