6 Tips for Building the Right Vision

Hey everybody, it’s Peter Green with Agile for All. All my product owners, my product managers, my entrepreneurs, my CEOs, my chief product folks, this one’s for you.

Today, I want to talk a little bit about vision. Don’t roll your eyes. I see you. Don’t do it!

All right. Vision, I know. It seems like a basic thing. Yeah, okay, we need a vision, but boy, it’s hard to do well, and if we’re not doing it well, it can seem like wasted effort.

When vision is done well, it makes a huge difference. I’ve seen this in company after company, team after team. When we do some workshopping on a vision. and we iterate on it and we get it just right, suddenly things just click. So here are six tips for building a great vision.

1. The word vision implies something you can see. I like to think of vision as, what does the world look like when we’re successful? That could be a company level vision statement. When our company is successful, here’s what the world looks like. Or it could be at the product level or even at the team level. If our team succeeds, what does the world look like? How is that different than what the world looks like now?

2. What does the world look like for our customers? It’s not what our products look like. I’ve seen vision statements that are say “Our product will have these features”. Those are not very inspiring. And that’s one of the goals of a great vision statement: to inspire the people who are working toward it. If you really want to inspire your people, focus on how you’re going to make a difference for your customers. What does their world look like?

3. You can include what the world looks like for employees too. I’ve seen some good vision statements that had a mixture of “here’s what it’s like for customers and here’s what it’s like to work here”. Both of those can be inspiring, and we try to be as vivid as we can in that language.

4. Avoid corporate jargon! And lists of features. Those don’t belong in a mission statement.

5. It’s all about good storytelling. I keep hearing it’s hard to come up with a good vision statement, especially collaboratively. I think about vision as telling a story — and a huge part of excellent leadership is good storytelling. Using our proven techniques, we can work with a team and get a nice, inspiring, vivid draft vision statement in about 45 minutes. But the written version isn’t the only thing a leader relies on.

6. Think about vision as an ongoing living core of the story that you tell in all types of interactions. Your vision is way more than the thing you put in a slide deck or on your website. It’s how you talk to everyone involved — how you keep that vision vivid and inspiring for the people that are working hard, who are giving their blood, sweat, and tears toward making something. And boy, it’s a lot more rewarding to work toward something that is meaningful than just to punch the time clock.

Oh, and here’s a bonus tip: a really good vision statement can be written in 45 minutes if you do it in very fast iterations. It’s one of the techniques I teach to clients that they love!

If you have any thoughts about good vision statements or even links to them, we’re always looking for good examples. So go ahead and put that in the comments below. I hope to hear from you soon.

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Peter Green

Peter Green led a grass roots Agile transformation at Adobe from 2005 to 2015, starting with his own team, Adobe Audition. His influence includes the teams behind such software flagships as Photoshop, Acrobat, Flash, Dreamweaver and Premiere Pro, as well as dozens of internal IT and platform technology teams and groups like marketing and globalization. His work was a major factor enabling Adobe product teams to make critical business transition from perpetual desktop products to the subscription-based service, Creative Cloud. His hands-on Scrum and Agile training and coaching at all levels of the organization including executives, helped lay the groundwork to shift teams from two-year product cycles to frequent delivery of high-quality software and services. He is a Certified Scrum Trainer® (CST), instructional designer, coach, facilitator, and a popular speaker at Tech, Agile, and Scrum conferences.

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