All the way back on Day 2 of my 31 days of blog posts, I asserted that to build great products you needed to Know Your Vision, inside and out. Understand your why and shout it from the rooftops, or at least be able to spit out an elevator pitch.
“People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” – Simon Sinek, Start With Why
I’ll expand that for the product managers out there to say that you can’t expect your team to blindly support what you’re building, but they will bend over backwards if they believe in why they are building it.
One of the most important responsibilities for a product manager is to inspire and lead their teams towards a common goal. No matter the size of the company or the size of your product, you need an overarching goal in order to create a strategy on how to get there. On top of that, your vision is the thing you point to in moments of doubt or to justify changes in strategy.
This goes beyond product and engineering. It should also guide marketing, sales and the team that will have to support your product before, during and after launch.
The way that I like to think about it is that you’re painting a version of the future that is better because of what you’re building. A future where what you’re building is delivering value to both your business and your customer and they’ve got big smiles on their faces.
For SpaceX, their vision is enabling human life on Mars.
Talk about a vision. I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that the product you’re building is not quite as grandiose in scope, but in this case size doesn’t matter. You should have the same passion and ambition behind your vision.
Before you can truly define your product vision you have to understand your product. As the product manager, that’s your job. You need to understand all aspects of your product, beyond the features to include:
- Key Product Goals
- Target Customers
One way to go about creating a vision is to follow the template from Geoffrey Moore’s book Crossing the Chasm. All you have to do is fill in the blanks:
- For (target customer)
- Who (statement of the need or opportunity)
- (Product name) is a (product category)
- That provides (key benefit)
- Unlike (the product alternatives)
- Our product (statement of primary differentiation)
You’ll end up with a vision statement like this one I made up for mint.com:
For the bill-paying member of the family who also manages the budget and is tired of tracking multiple accounts in order to have a clear financial overview. Mint.com is a web-based program that automatically ties in to all financial institutions and automatically updates in real time. It is optimized specifically for the everyman budgeter and is free to use.
It’s a fine vision statement but, it doesn’t get me jazzed and quite frankly it’s way to long. You want to shoot for short and sweet. Could I use it to point to and support my product decisions. Sure, but getting engineers and salesmen to recollect it and follow it is a stretch. Plus, it’s just not cool.
It’s a good starting point, and in fact is a great exercise to go through with your team and make sure that the foundation of the vision is solid throughout your organization. As the product owner it is your responsibility to create the vision statement, but along the way you should take the time to include everyone else that has a stake in the product and get their input. Involving your partners early and often will ensure that everyone is on the same page even before you distribute the clean, concise, dare I say, sexy final version.
Now, take that statement and break it down to it’s most essential pieces. What’s the heart of the product that you’re trying to create for your target customers. How will their lives be better and different in the future? Break that out and craft a statement or two. Then take another pass and see if it gets you excited.
“If you are working on something exciting that you really care about, you don’t have to be pushed. The vision pulls you.” – Steve Jobs
Is what you have now pulling you? Is it ambitious? Will it engage the troops when it’s time to kick it into high gear? Is it short and sweet? And most importantly, does it make sense?
If not, rework it until it does. When you’ve got a vision that excites you and paints that better version of the future, then communicate it throughout your organization and ensure that everyone is inline, from the C-level down to your entry-level engineers.
With this, you’ve set the direction and everyone is moving together towards the higher purpose and a full understanding of your why, which ultimately makes your team more of a team.
Here’s a few examples that I like:
To build a place where people can come to find and discover anything they might want to buy online.
To inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.
To create a better everyday life for the many people.
Toys ‘R Us:
Put joy in kids’ hearts and a smile on parent’s faces.
One thing I liked about SpaceX’s mission is that before stating the goal they also said this “SpaceX was founded under the belief that a future where humanity is out exploring the stars is fundamentally more exciting than one where we are not.”
That is heart and passion and raw, real, truth. So when you’re looking to create your vision, think about SpaceX and let it be a little raw.