Vision, Mission, and Elephants

In the Army every unit had its Mission, and Vision. I maintain those two should be listed in the reverse order.

Let me tell you a story.

Around the year 1399 Tamerlane conquered all of Turkey. He comes to a small village and summoned the elders. “What a deal I have for you,” he says. “Rather than pay me yearly tribute, I have a war elephant I want you to care for and feed.”

The elders think this is a pretty good deal, considering, until after six months they add up how much the beast is eating, and decide they’d prefer to take the Standard Deduction like everyone else.

There was a man living nearby named Nasrudin who was part philosopher, part fool, who had had dealings with Tamerlane before, and lived to tell about it. The elders went to him, begging that he ask Tamerlane to take the elephant back and allow them to pay tribute instead.

“That could be very dangerous,” said Nasrudin, adding, “his real name is Timur The Lame. He has gout, and when the gout is active, he has a terrible temper and can order people’s head be cut off in an instant.”

“We’ll go as a group,” explained the elders. “We’ll explain you are only acting as our spokesman.”

“Very well,” sighed Nasrudin. “Under those conditions, I’ll do it.”

VISION: Spokesman for the village
MISSION: Get Timur to take the elephant back

Nasrudin and Co. ride into Tamerlane’s camp and as they approach the entryway, Nasrudin prostrates himself before the mighty warrior.

“Oh mighty Timur, ruler of all, we have come to speak to you about your elephant in the village of Ak Sehir!”

He hears Timur’s voice ask, “What do you mean, ‘we,’ Nasrudin?”

Nasrudin lifts his face from the ground and sees Timur, resplendent upon his divan, but the slipper has been removed from his right foot, and it is resting upon a silk pillow, the big toe bright red. His gout is active.

Nasrudin notices the elders are not beside him, and looking over his shoulder sees them leaving camp as fast as their donkeys have ever traveled in their entire lives.

Suddenly, Nasrudin has a Vision Change.

“So, Nasrudin,” Timur asks, “What’s this about my elephant? Has something happened to it?”

Nasrudin ponders this question for a moment, then as the dust settles from the elders’ sudden departure, replies, “It is a small matter really, and I hesitate to mention it, but it appears the beast is lonesome, and needs a mate.”

Or, as I would explain to my junior officers at the end of my tale:
with a change in vision, comes a change in mission.

What’s your vision?