But a manager must also be able to communicate that vision to the team and others to motivate everyone involved, said John McManus, who was recently appointed senior research fellow in the Faculty of Business Management and Computing at Lincoln University.
"Vision is a key component of leadership," said McManus. "But a vision is of little use if it is not communicated to others.
"Regardless of personal risks, a professional project manager must strive to be a systems visionary. With each passing phase of the project, the manager must constantly develop and communicate his or her vision of both the system functionality and the project approach.
"Only when the vision has been understood and adopted by the team does its usefulness begin to emerge. A project management visionary plays a vital role in making this happen.
"The willingness of the project manager to share his or her insights and understanding of the steps needed to arrive at a desired outcome tend to depend on two factors: the level of confidence the project manager has in his ideas, and the ability to tolerate close scrutiny and criticism of those ideas."
Indeed, on this last point McManus said that if a project manager could see their vision simply as a starting point, for refinement by the team, and could let go of it, the evolving vision could be taken over by the whole group as the way forward that they shared and were all committed to together.
McManus had some tips on communication, motivation and gaining commitment to the project vision. These are covered further in his new book, Information Systems Project Management: Methods, Tools and Techniques.
"Lead by the example of your own effort and commitment, not by demanding more of your subordinates than they are willing to give of themselves or you of yourself," McManus said.
"Develop relationships with line managers and subordinates which create a climate of confidence regarding the constructive nature of criticism received or given.
"Make work enjoyable and fulfilling, developing an environment combining humour and respect in which people know they will be listened to and treated fairly. Encourage stakeholders to contribute to decisions, but act decisively when necessary, accepting responsibility for their actions at all times.
"Gaining commitment to the project vision requires the project manager to find the means and processes that will foster an environment in which team members will be motivated to work towards the vision.
"This commitment is not a destination, but a continuing journey in terms of keeping people loyal to the vision and constantly striving for its attainment, even during periods of adversity."
This was first published in September 2003