From The Everyday Innovator: Creating products customers love feels like juggling a whole lot of balls at one time. It can be chaotic. It’s also a good bet that people on your product team, and most certainly in your organization outside the core team, have different understandings of what the product is about. It’s a real challenge to keep everyone on the same page.
The tool that brings order to the chaos is vision. The product vision is like the guiding northern light for the product team, keeping everyone moving in the same direction. It is the responsibility of the product manager to create and share the product vision.
Yet, it is not easily done. Very few great product vision examples exist. Thankfully for us, [Jon] knows how to create product vision and has done so many times. [His] expertise is from driving innovation through design thinking from his work designing hundreds of digital experiences with organizations in a variety of industries.
Summary of some concepts discussed for product managers
[2:03] What is product vision and why is it important?
A great product vision is a tool to align a plan with your executives and your team. It helps avoid product drift and putting resources in the wrong areas. It’s often defined as inspirational but should go beyond that and answer the question of why the product exists and how it will benefit the organization and the customer.
[3:27] Why is product vision often lacking in digital products?
The idea of digital products is still pretty young, so that’s part of it. Vision is also looked at as something soft and intangible, and therefore unimportant. Some of the challenges a product faces when it’s in the market can be traced all the way back to a lack of product vision. A weak product is almost as dangerous as not having any product at all. The rules of creating a product vision for digital products have yet to be fully written; it’s not industry knowledge.
[7:10] How do you create a product vision?
There are five critical building blocks to a great vision: goal, action, problem, benefit, result. The goal might be at the organizational level or at the product level. It should be tangible and understood by everyone on the team. The second part is the action needed to achieve that goal. The third building block is understanding what problem you are trying to solve. Organizations tend to fall in love with the solution instead of the problem. Good product managers fall in love with the problem, not the solution. The fourth piece is the benefit to the organization, and the final element is the result, or the benefit to the customer.
[11:34] How do product managers implement vision day-to-day?
Product managers develop a lot of skill around understanding value. They have to take a big idea and create a product out of it that solves a problem for the customer while showing executives how it fits the company’s vision. At the same time, product management leads the effort to execute that vision.
[16:14] What role does collaboration play in creating product vision?
Creating a vision is really powerful as a collaborative exercise. Once you have a vision, it’s the first thing every new team member should see when they join the project. It should help those people see their role in solving the problem and understand the interdependencies among team members. Collaboration also helps create re-enforcement and help keep the team focused over long project timelines. A great product vision can help break down silos and give people across the organization something they can get behind.
[19:37] What format works best for presenting product vision?
Most often, it becomes the cover slide in a presentation. It can also work as a video that’s narrated and serves as more of a rallying cry. Effective visions embrace the empathetic side and show how the vision impacts customers rather than focusing on the organization’s bottom line. GE did a great job of this with a vision for an MRI machine for children. They had a strong, clear vision for what they were trying to achieve and how it would benefit patients and hospitals. No matter what the format is, the vision typically works best when it’s presented as a statement that’s clear and easy to understand.
“Vision without action is a daydream, and action without vision is a nightmare.” -Japanese Proverb