A vision is an image of how an actor or group of actors would like things to be in the future. Visioning is a well established process in strategic planning. Most organisations have a vision of how they would like to see the future and a mission of how the organisation will contribute to this desired future.
Visioning can be coupled with scenario thinking to help actors understand how the future might unfold and to explore what they consider to be more or less desirable. Scenarios can also help explore the pathways for realising a vision.
From the MSP Guide:
Visioning is a tool that brings stakeholders together to develop a shared vision of the future. It helps to answer the question:
“What do we want to see in place 5-10 years from now in this MSP?”
By engaging participants in the formulation of a common goal, visioning gives people a sense of control and motivation, and offers a possibility for fundamental change. It nurtures essential characteristics of powerful and effective groups, like cohesion and common direction.
With problem solving, a group can become mired in technical details and political problems and may even disagree on how to define the problem. Problem solving, although useful, rarely results in any real fundamental change.
While a problem is something negative to move away from, visioning provides a positive paradigm by offering something to move toward. It offers a bigger picture. It generates creative thinking and passion to solve the problems that might arise when moving toward a vision.
A good vision is both realistic and stretching. Visioning too far into the future has the drawback of not creating enough motivational pull. Visioning too close to today and has the drawback of appearing as just another plan.