What Should STC’s Vision Be?

Guest post by Larry Kunz, STC Fellow and Strategic Planning manager

The STC Board of Directors is considering changing the Society’s vision statement. The vision statement answers the question, “What would the world look like if everything went perfectly for STC and the people we serve?”

Why is a vision statement important? It represents the consensus view of an organization and its leadership about the direction in which the organization should go. It forms the basis for establishing plans and goals. It gives outsiders, including prospective members and business partners, insight into what the organization values most.

Here is STC’s current vision statement:

Technical communication is recognized as an essential part of every organization’s competitive strategy.

Do you think that vision statement reflects your vision of the ideal world? What do you like about the vision statement? What do you dislike? If your vision for STC is different from that reflected in the statement, how is it different?

I hope that all of you will respond. Use the Comments section below, or respond on Twitter using the hashtag #stcvision.

22 thoughts on “What Should STC’s Vision Be?”

  1. Hey Larry/Board,

    Here’s a crazy thought. Why not first revisit the tons of info archived from the STC Forums, and on STC Ideas, and in the achives for the stc-pres and sig-leaders lists? People have batted the vision (and the mission) around for years now. There’s a wealth of info out there just begging to be read.


    1. Point taken, Bill. And I think it’s safe to say that every member of the board has read a great deal of that material. Distilling all of it down to a single vision statement is hard, though. I’m hoping that a focused discussion (this one) will help us do that.

      Based on what you’ve read in (and contributed to) all of those sources, how would you distill it down to a single vision statement?

  2. The late Steve Jobs said: “A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them”. Members of most organisations generally look to the organisation’s leaders to share a vision that they can rally behind. It would be great to see STC’s leadership share a vision.


  3. Larry/Board/Whoever,

    Not that I’m a big fan of “vision” statements, because they are usually nothing more than bunches of pretentious buzzwords strung together to sound important to the uninformed but usually say nothing meaningful at all, but I look at this and the first thing that comes to my mind is: What the *&%$#! kind of “vision” is this? It sounds like we’re begging to just be at the table, rather than taking our rightful place at it.

    In my mind, ideally, the STC would be about:

    First and foremost, enabling, supporting, and disseminating research in the user assistance development field.
    Providing avenues and venues for practitioners to communicate, interact, and learn.
    Providing ways for companies and job seekers to connect and providing information to those who want to learn how to become practitioners to get the knowledge and skills they need.
    Acknowledging achievements of practitioners.
    Advancing the discipline of user assistance development.
    Educating those outside the field about the entirety of what its practitioners do.

    And that’s just off the top of my head, with a meeting to go to in less than 10 minutes.

    Notice I didn’t say anything about certification; we have degree programs at good colleges that do that well. And notice I didn’t even use the words “technical communication” because I believe our field, like what used to be commonly called human-computer interaction, has evolved beyond what essentially is somewhat limiting and not-always-accurate terminology.

    Now whether or not you, the board, or anyone else currently in power at STC thinks that what I’ve laid out are the primary missions of STC, you at least now have another 2 cents worth to (hopefully) stimulate further discussion.

    1. Chuck, thanks for your thoughtful response. Your list — enabling, supporting, providing, educating, etc. — looks like a great strategic plan. To get to the vision statement, though, we need to ask “to what end?” In other words, WHY are we enabling, supporting, providing, educating, etc.? What’s the outcome we’re trying to bring about?

      The answer to those questions is the vision statement.

  4. I have to agree with Bill. We’ve navel-gazed long enough. I’d love to see (and help with!) some real PR on our profession that includes educating employers about our “Swiss Army Knife” skills and our “Adjustable Spanner” versatility, as some of our lists have already discussed.

    The vision statement is fine; let’s put effort into implementing it by making people aware of the immense value Tech Comm drops to a company’s bottom line. Who doesn’t love reduced customer support costs?

    Just because we work behind the scenes, and that when we do our jobs well no one notices (which is the point), that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t brag a little, or a lot! There isn’t a more interesting bunch of people than STC members, and we have a lot to offer. I’d like to see techcomm become a household word, so to speak. It’s time.


  5. Thanks, Beth. Two phrases jump out at me: “behind the scenes” and “household word.” I think you’re envisioning a world in which techcomm emerges from obscurity and is valued — not just in the executive suite but all up and down Main Street. I think there might be the germ of a vision statement there.

    1. Vision is for STC, not for tech comm (aside from what members want to believe). What is the Society’s vision? That’s the key, and it’s not something the membership is equipped to answer. We know what we want it to be. We all have our own individual ideas. We also know what we want Honda, Nabisco and Microsoft to be, but it’s not up to us. The same holds true to STC.

      The Board needs to churn this one out. The vision is for STC, not Technical Communication. If the Board disagrees, then there’s a huge problem right there. STC is not Technical Communication, and nor is the inverse true. We are members of a society that is focused on technical communication. The society should have a direction for itself, to which we subscribe if nothing more than with our wallets. STC can champion technical communication, but it can’t set a vision for it and call it its own. That would indicate STC and technical communication are one and the same, which will never, ever, be true.

      So, ask the Board the leading questions to grow a vision. Why is STC in existence today? What is the goal of having such an organization? How will it get there? And after answering all that, what is the ultimate end result?

      See vision statement examples:

      Pay particular attention to the old vs. new statements, how things had changed over time. Also, check out the note for Nike.

      Do not use the examples to craft one for STC. Go through the motions, answering the questions. The vision will become clear.

      1. Thanks, Bill. That “note for Nike” is worth quoting here for everyone to see:

        …[M]any people confuse Mission statements with Vision statements – for instance, I have found several websites claiming that Nike’s Vision statement is: “To bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the World” – but this is Nike’s Mission statement. A Vision statement by definition is something you want to become, to achieve, it is a seductive image of an ideal future – whereas a Mission statement explains the purpose of the organization – why it exists – it captures the organization’s soul.

  6. I agree with Bill that the Vision Statement is for the future of the organization, STC, not the field of technical communication. What does STC want to become? I’d like it to become the most valuable resource in the world for information, education, and employment in the field of technical communication.

  7. OOOOOOO, I like the use of organization and competitive strategy. Let’s think about the other parts.

    TW is a one of types of MANY organizations’ (not every organization’s) essential communication needs, which needs are easily ignored in quality and quantity. The vision statement is incorrect, though, and therefore weak, because TW is not an essential part of every organization’s communication needs.

    How about something like,

    “Organizations that communicate technical information integrate professional technical information developers, standards, tools, and processes as a strategic and competitive best practice.”

    My rationale: 1) Integrate is better than incorporate. 2) Repeating “technical information” provides compounding impact. 3) Developers is better than communicators. 4) The compound noun phrase seems long, but it emphasizes each of the areas where the STC provides best-practice support. 5) Including strategic with competitive emphasizes that strategic investment (longer-term and continuous) results in competitive (shorter-term, albeit repeated) benefits.

    1. Hi, Laurie. When we crafted the current vision statement, we really did mean every organization — reasoning that tech comm is important to all of them, whether they know it or not. Too grandiose? Maybe?

      I don’t know whether your phrase “organizations that communicate technical information” really fixes the problem becuase, whether they know it or not, it still applies to a large percentage of businesses and educational institutions.

      That said, I like the vision statement you proposed. I think it contains a lot of what we want to world to look like.

      1. But what does that make STC? We’re answering the wrong question here. The vision needs to be about STC. It can include impact on technical communication at large, but without a Society vision, we won’t know how to steer STC to that end.

  8. I would first take a look at our Articles of Incorporation. We are a 501c3 educational organization. We could start there.

    The vision statement could include:

    Educate new practioners
    Educate students
    Educate business and industry leaders and users of our service offerings
    Educate society leaders as to leadership and management best practices
    Educate existing practitioners in new concept, tools, and application or our offerings

    Get my direction here? Could be good.

    Bob Dianetti

    1. Thanks, Bob. I like how you hark back to the articles of incorporation. That document reflects the vision of STC’s founders, wouldn’t you think?

      One small point: I’d remove the imperative verbs from these so that they sound more like a vision and less like a strategic plan — for example “All business and industry leaders aware of STC’s service offerings.”

  9. I propose the following:

    STC’s vision is a community in which people who care about technical communication can support and learn from each other as they practice and work to advance this profession.

  10. There’s a lot of food for thought here.

    I share Bill’s notion that the vision is for STC, not Tech Comm, though I do think members can and should contribute to it. In the end, though, the board has to decide.

    I like Beth’s orientation to implementation (enough navel gazing).

    The vision I hope we all share for STC is one that sees STC as one of the strongest INTERNATIONAL technical communications organizations anywhere, capable of influencing the direction the profession takes, and proactive in collaborating with other tech comm organizations, and organizations in related fields, to strengthen the role of content workers of all types, and to help them acheive success.

    If we could attain that vision, we wouldn’t have to be discussing our value proposition – it would be obvious.

    1. That is good, Ray. One question, and I ask because I want to be perfectly clear about what you intended: By “one of the strongest INTERNATIONAL technical communications organizations anywhere” do you mean simply “one of the strongest tech comms organizations in the world” or “one of the strongest tech comms organizations in all parts of the world”? As I know you’re aware, the second is a lot harder than the first. Is that the height of the bar that we want to attain?

Comments are closed.