Building Visions that are just for Christmas

James Routledge
Oct 12, 2017 · 3 min read
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Many believe lack of vision can provide some of the biggest failings a company can suffer

But for brand new teams/products/startups is not having the V word nailed down really going to sink you?

As the ramen noodles cool and hour 16 in the working day ticks over many can be seen to spend days debating ‘why are we here’ taking up valuable customer-focus time, you’re dealing with a tomorrow problem, let’s reframe…

If we assume today that YOU are collectively the vision and culture organically then a vision just becomes a source of alignment. We can pause defining the Vision you proudly pronounce to that New York Times Journalist and instead opt for a ‘working title’ vision. Something for today that defines what you’re all invested in and cements we all agreed to choose to work hour 17 over some precious Zzzz.

Building a Vision in 60 minutes

Let’s try a rapid reformat and have a go at defining this shared future. (If you already have a vision today this is going to stress-test how in-sync everyone is)

Step 1: The story so far (5 mins)

In your team take whoever has the strongest hold on vision today and have them give the group context of the past, present, and future

Step 2: Talk customer (5 mins)

Have the whole team detail out your customers, build the segments through conversations and share needs and goals so the team have one focus, no writing at this stage it should be anecdotal

Step 3: Talk problems/delight (5 mins)

Define a problem space, the macro’s people see in the market and where there’s huge opportunity looming for our chosen segments, again hands off the styluses for now

Step 4: Ideate (120 seconds)

Post-its in hand everyone works independently to write as many visions as they can, visions have a few rules:

  1. It has to be a 5-year vision, not just what you want to get done in a design sprint
  2. You can’t mention solutions, visions are agnostic as you won’t know what you’ll need to change over the next 12 months
  3. Keep it customer-centric, make sure you feel like it’s referencing the people that matter most, not just your own beliefs

Step 5: Discuss (10 mins)

Everyone gets their ideas on a wall, we look for themes and people share opinions. When the group starts to find agreement look for keywords across the visions you feel have the most alignment. Bang those out as post-its on a separate board/wall.

Step 6: Iterate (90 seconds)

Everyone takes our core words (values) and tries to build a unified vision

Step 7: Discuss/Vote (5 minutes)

Take a few minutes to review the new wall, dot voting with one vote per post-it max, as many votes as you see visions you like

Step 8: Combine (10 minutes) — optional

If by the end of step 7 you don’t have a clear winner open the table to merging 2 or 3 iterated versions together on a whiteboard. Be warned, as soon as people start to move the same words around then you’re vision is cooked, you just need to leave it to cool. After a break, you’ll see it’s just what you wanted.

That’s it, you’ll have alignment and clarity in the chaos of starting something new and everyone agreed in 3 months to revisit once the business is shipping it offers the market.

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