I have a confession to make…

I hate talking about vision. Don’t misread what I just said. I actually love vision. I embrace it. I do all I can to live it. I just hate TALKING about it. “Why?” you may ask. Because all too often, vision is “all talk, no action”. For too many band programs, it is discussed at the beginning of the year, slapped into a handbook, maybe put on a poster, and then that’s it.

So, how do we turn vision from poetic verbiage into meaningful action?

How do we turn vision into action?

A Process for Creating Actionable Vision

One of the easiest mistakes we band directors make is to create a vision that is based on our own ideals but is bereft of the values, or even the abilities, of the students we teach. In this vein, it is also easy to create a vision that does not take into account limitations such as resources, culture, passions, or duplication of someone else’s ideas. Vision should certainly be bold, idealistic, and perhaps a bit audacious, but what happens when the vision you have is so very distant from that of the students you teach? Or beyond the current capabilities of the program to achieve? There is a fine balance between being ambitious and in setting yourself up for extended disappointment born from ideas that never gain momentum. So, what’s the solution?


What is your “hedgehog”?

This concept is represented by the following three circles:

The Hedgehog Concept

In business, this theory supposes that the “hedgehog” is the nexus point where the following three questions meet:

What are you deeply passionate about?

Applying this concept to creating vision for our band programs, we can reframe these questions to the following:

What is our band most passionate about?

The Hedgehog Concept for Band


I am occasionally asked to work with band programs struggling to establish a consistent culture of excellence. More often than not, I find that some of these programs might have a generic mission statement that does not reflect the three “hedgehog” questions. It is not unusual to discover that most of their aspirations and dreams are around 75% based on what they are passionate about with the remaining 25% some combination of uniqueness and acknowledgment of resources. I work with them to better balance the three questions and then to help them craft more specific vision statements utilizing what I call the BELIEVE — DO — ACHIEVE approach to vision casting.

Determining values-based actions

This exercise is undertaken by answering the following three questions:

What do we BELIEVE our band’s values to be?


Sample BELIEVE — DO — ACHIEVE poster


As I learned from Dr. Dunnigan, it is important to be self-reflective and honest about how our actions define who we are as people and, collectively, as a band. I leave you one of my favorite self-reflective questions to ponder for yourself:

If every member of the band acted, thought, and spoke the way I do, what would our band look like or achieve?



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