Learn to See Visions!


Creating A Vision of Greatness:

Imaging and documenting the future that you prefer

The story of Ari and Paul sitting on the bench in front of the Zingerman’s Deli and hatching a vision of growth through the creation of a Community of Businesses, rather than through franchising the Deli, is an important piece of Zingerman’s lore. Less well known, however, is the fact that we actively teach the process of visioning throughout the organization and use it regularly for projects both large and small. In addition, ZingTrain teaches Zingerman’s visioning approach to clients from around the world – in both public and private seminars and workshops. We define vision as “what success looks like, at a particular point in time in the future, documented with enough richness of detail that it’s clear when we’ve arrived.” Unlike the short “vision statements” found in traditional business books, our vision for Zingerman’s 2020 is about 7 pages long.

We believe that using visioning changes lives. We know it has changed us as an organization, and many of us have used visioning to change our personal lives as well. A vision is not a strategic plan but rather our destination. Strategic plans are important, but we believe they make no sense until there’s agreement on where we’re going.

One of the organizations we’ve worked with on visioning is Southern Foodways Alliance. We asked SFA Director, John T. Edge, to share his experience.

ZingTrain: Before we get into the interview, what would you like people to know about your organization?

John T: The Southern Foodways Alliance at the University of Mississippi documents, studies, and celebrates the diverse food cultures of the changing American South. We set a common table where black and white, rich and poor—all who gather—may consider our history and our future in a spirit of reconciliation.

When and how did you first hear about Zingerman’s and ZingTrain?

We learned about ZingTrain by falling in love with the Zingerman’s Community of Businesses. If you visit the Zingerman’s Roadhouse or Delicatessen, buy from zingermans.com, buy breads, buy cheese, or buy chocolates, you know that the folks on the other end of those transactions are customer service paragons. Somewhere along the way, we realized that SFA employees could learn a thing or six from Zingerman’s about customer service. That led us to ZingTrain.

What was the nature of that work?


Zingerman’s helped us craft our 2021 Vision of Greatness. It’s our lodestar.

How has your organization changed since working with ZingTrain?

We’re far more process oriented. And we’re far more focused on who we are and what we want to be when we grow up. Come to think of it, we’re closer to being all grownup.

Do you have any advice for an organization that is considering working with ZingTrain?

Trust the process. Read Ari’s books. Speak your mind. That vision of greatness thing will serve you very well.

Interested in learning more?

Check out these resources: