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Vision Matters

If one has no compass, when one doesn’t know where one stands and where one wants to go, one can deduce that one has no leadership or interest in shaping events.

Helmut Kohl

An advantage of working with many different clients on many different projects is being forced – or maybe “incentivized” is a better word – to remain flexible and, can I say it, agile. Everyone has a different way to do things, their preferred tools, processes, communication styles and levels of involvement. Adapting to the client’s environment as opposed to trying to get it to adopt to you is a far more effective approach to delivering what they ultimately need and want.

However, there is one organizational habit that has tied itself to agility and it is definitely not agile nor is it an environmental factor you can work with. It has to be addressed up front. That is the “throwing things at the wall and seeing what sticks” approach to strategy. Be it a business or a product strategy. It happens much more often than not and is explained away as “experimentation” or “moving through the backlog” or “keeping up with the competition” or simply “doing what the loudest customer told us”.

The key reason this happens in organizations is that the organizational vision is either non-existent or not used as a point of reference or not developed properly to be useful. When developed properly, an organizational vision is a tool more useful than any other in the product management kit. Actually, it enhances all the other tools! Imagine setting a foundation on uneven, unfinished ground. Sure, it can be done. But everything built on that foundation will be off, potentially useless and likely to collapse at some point.

A properly developed organizational vision acts a compass to help us get to where we want to go. It guides our business strategy or what we’re going to accomplish this year. The business strategy guides our tactics and that in turn helps us develop the product vision. What we’re going to build to help us deliver on our tactics, business strategy, and ultimately the organizational vision.

If we’re building features and products that are not ultimately supporting our business strategy and organizational vision, then we’re wasting time and money.

Maggie Crowley, Olympian, Harvard grad, and Director of PM at Drift gives a great example:

“We always start by looking at the business and what we’re trying to accomplish as a business. At Drift, we’re trying to create a new category of conversational marketing, so we think about our business goals, what do we need to do for the business — and then we figure out what can we do as a product team to help achieve that vision. And then we work backwards from there.

For example, if our goal is to grow revenue or grow customers, or enter a new market, then we work backwards. We figure out what that means for the product, what the product can do to get us there and then we plant a flag (usually on a quarterly basis). And then that’s how we do our product planning.”

Maggie Crowley

Director of Product Management @ Drift

How do you develop a useful vision?

It is a well defined process. It can be fun, enlightening, exciting and it does NOT have to take a very long time. However, once in place, it will be a major source of momentum for an organization.

Contact us to help you develop an effective vision or sign up for updates and stay tuned for the next post detailing the steps involved.

Author: Ved Nikolic

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