PRODUCT VISION STATEMENTS

We teach ScrumMasters and Product Owners in training how to write product vision statements as part of the extended planning framework of Scrum/Agile. There are a number of ways this can be achieved - elevator statement [Moore], Design-the-box exercise [Highsmith]. Some participants have mentioned that their organizations write "Vision Documents" that go one level deeper than a mere statement. The culminations of these exercises are black-and-white, resulting in a statement, a document, a box.

In thinking about product vision this evening, and on the 'softer side', I like to think that the product vision should have a motivating or inspirational aspect. Often, the vision is the only insight a teammember has in order to feel connected to the purpose and the overarching reason for his efforts on the project. If a leader - or product owner - can add an inspirational element to the product vision, perhaps this would help each team member resonate with the project goals at an emotional level.

So, in trying to write a product vision for an internet shoe store, I could think of the vision statement in two ways. The first way - Typical [usually what you see]: "Develop an ecommerce site for the purchasing of shoes from multiple vendors." While that certainly spells out the overarching goal of the product to some extent, I feel that a more inspirational way to say this would be: "Within a year, develop the number #1 ecommerce website so that our valued customers can purchase diverse shoes from all over the world in time-saving, innovative ways."

The second, more inspirational way of stating this first provides the team with a timeframe. This timeframe allows a teammember to picture a calendar; right away, there is a sense of delivering value against a set time. Secondly, I added "valued" customers - it's important that the entire team remembers the importance of customers in the process. "Shoes from all over the world" - this phrase enabled me to visualize a globe, and immediately images of Holland's wooden shoes, China's silken slippers, Italy's leather strappy wonders began to fill my head. "Time-saving" and "innovative" denote the value - in high level terms - that our site will bring to our customers; they will be able to quickly purchase their shoes in innovative ways. The granularity of those value-adds can be determined over time.

Of course, language may sound inspirational and motivational to some team members, and it may not resonate at all with others. And certain projects aren't fun or inspirational at all.

I'd be curious to hear your thoughts on the motivational aspects of product vision statements.