How to create our vision for an Agile team; Queen inspires me!
"One man one goal one mission, One heart one soul just one solution" …. One vision ….that song was playing non stop in my vinyl player during mid-’80s. Back in the days, Queen was a very popular band during that decade, and I remember the powerful voice of Freddie Mercury singing with that unrepeatable voice: deep, robust, authoritative … But although Freddie Mercury's voice was very authoritarian, he could not compete with my mother's voice screaming at me to lower the volume of the music! … My mother pissed off ... That was an authoritative, robust and powerful voice!
One Vision … What an incredible song!… it’s been more 30 years of that song. But I still love it, it has not gone out of fashion, at least for me, now I don’t have the vinyl, but … thank you, Spotify!!
And definitely what it is not out of fashion but is more fashionable than ever is the theme of vision!
Defining the vision of the company or a department is one of those tasks that seem an exercise of faith and mysticism. There are several reasons for this, the first is the confusion between mission and vision. Frequently the terms are used indifferently to refer to what we do and where we want to be, and the truth is that in an Agile environment, mission and vision are two different concepts
I personally understand the mission as part of the how, where we are today and how we do our work. The vision is where we want to be. There are many ways to attack the task of creating a vision for an Agile team. Personally, the method that I like the most to articulate a vision statement is to apply the 3 rings technique.
- What the project/product/process will do? What problem are we trying to solve?
- Who. Who will use the project/product/process that we will do? Who we are we solving the problem for?
- Why. Why the project/product/process will do what we say in the vision that it will do. Why the vision is solving this problem
The problems that we might face creating a Vision in an Agile environment might be quite diverse, but typical pain points when articulating our vision might be
- Not getting buy-in from the team. It might happen that the entire team does not understand a vision, therefore a vision not understood will be difficult to implement. How can we avoid this pitfall? Everyone participates! If everyone participates in creating the Vision everyone will understand it and everyone will feel empower to participate to achieve the vision. It might start with the leader of the team creating a vision that it’ll be reviewed later all together…. or it can start with the creation of the vision directly from the team in a collaborative way, where the leader facilitates the creation of the vision while ensuring that the vision fits in the whole overall company strategy.
- Elevator pitch length! This is a popular technique which says that if for example we meet the CEO of the company in the elevator and s/he asks in what we are working, we have around 30 seconds to explain what we do. A vision that it cannot be summarised and quickly understood might give us some indicators that it’s not clear enough. If we cannot explain our vision in 30 seconds elevator ride maybe we need to keep working on developing our vision
- Iterative. The essence of an agile environment is based on small steps …. we create something and we improve it as we know more about our process/products. In the case of vision, the same principle can be applied. A vision of a team can (and should) evolve as we know more about the product or service that we are creating. Eventually, we will have to modify the vision. It’s not static. Vision needs to be reviewed every year to assess if the vision is still valid! We can consider vision as a hybrid that evolves as our product evolves. Using the Agile vocabulary … “the vision is a living artifact”
Great, now we know what’s a vision, what questions can we ask to create our vision and what dangers lie in wait for us when we create a vision. But, do you need a practical approach to create a vision in the Agile framework? No problem! Here you go a suggestion. Use a Product Vision Board combined with the 3 W-ring technique shared above
There are many templates available waiting for you on Google to craft you unique and special vision … I personally like this model because of its simplicity and easiness of use.
This model focuses on the target users, the needs (aka the problem we are solving), the product (what is it) and the business goal
One additional idea is that based on my experience, it works better to create a Product Vision Board using a whiteboard and post-its. Of course, you might use a shared Google doc where people captured and shared ideas. But there are different studies who suggest that being stand -up with colleagues, talking, interacting, touching papers and pens of different colors tends to generate more creative thinking than simply sitting still.
Being everyone sitting at our desks and fill the vision electronically doesn’t cultivate the same level of collaboration than face to face touching paper and drawing in a whiteboard.
For this reason it’s good to find a way to make this vision brainstorming in an analog way touching, talking, feeling and hopefully laughing and having a good time!
It’s time to create your own vision statement now. Don’t worry about trying to make it perfect. That’s the beauty of the Agile framework. You start something small and you improve it with baby steps. If you need some inspiration here are a few examples of actual vision statements. Have a wonderful week!
- Microsoft (original): “A personal computer in every home running Microsoft software.”
- Google “To organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful”
- Bay: “To provide a global trading platform where practically anyone can trade practically anything.”
- Coca-Cola “To refresh the world in mind, body, and spirit. To inspire moments of optimism and happiness through our brands and actions”
- Amazon: “To be Earth’s most customer-centric company; to build a place where people can come to find and discover anything they might want to buy online.”
- Walmart “To be the best retailer in the hearts and minds of consumers and employees.”
- Tesla “Our goal when we created Tesla a decade ago was the same as it is today: to accelerate the advent of sustainable transport by bringing compelling mass market electric cars to market as soon as possible”