The Anatomy of a Product Vision
- Product Leadership /
- Product Strategy /
Empowering and aligning individuals and teams across your organization is essential and requires a well-articulated product vision. Understanding the anatomy of a great product vision allows you to nurture and cultivate this key foundational factor to propel your organization forward. The shared understanding of what you’re working toward also helps to ignite people’s passion for their work.
As a product leader, it’s your responsibility to anchor everything you are doing to a bigger purpose. If you can’t, you are missing an essential component to the foundation of your product strategy that is also necessary to bridge the execution gap, and enable effective delivery.
Let’s break down the anatomy of product vision so that you can quickly assess it and increase the impact it can have on your work.
What is a product vision?
A product vision is the clearly defined and measurable long-term goal you wish to achieve. It defines your intended destination (a.k.a. ideal future state). Your product vision acts as your true north.
Initially, you may not have all the answers on how you will get there, but your vision is your focus. Everyone’s efforts go into realizing the vision, and every iteration of your product brings you one step closer. In some cases, your product vision might be the same as your company vision; in others, it might be specific to a business unit, or a suite of products and services that enables the company to achieve new goals and fulfill its mission (purpose).
The role of a product vision in achieving your goals
Understanding and connecting “the why” of your product to that of your business is a critical first step in building alignment. Not doing so quickly leads to a disconnect and increases your product’s risk of failure. Misalignment at this critical level is often an indicator of underlying issues at both the team and organizational levels.
To mitigate these risks, one of the primary functions of a product leader must be to keep people focused on solving the right problem at the right time. A product leader must steward the forward momentum continuously — meeting near-term objectives while also continuing to work toward the long-term vision of the product. However, navigating this terrain is no small feat. Your product vision is one of the key pillars of a strong and effective strategic foundation. Anchoring your product vision to your organizational purpose will help stakeholders, teams, and individuals to converge and maintain alignment.
Key components of a successful product vision statement
A great product vision needs to be inspirational, specific, and measurable. Defining these characteristics as they pertain to your product vision helps to ensure that everyone is aligned.
Inspirational. A product’s stated vision is important to capture the hearts and minds of the people who are tasked with the awesome responsibility of solving the challenges necessary to realize this vision and establish/maintain market fit. A decisive product vision is at the root of capturing the hearts and minds of the people charged to solve challenges. This is an awesome responsibility. Not only to necessitate the realization of your vision but to establish/maintain market fit.
Specific. A product’s vision statement should clearly articulate the long-term goal that everyone is collaboratively working toward. Ideally, this is normally three to seven years out. It is realistic. And, it is customer-centric with an emphasis on the value your product will create.
Measurable. A product’s vision statement should be measurable by two dimensions: value (i.e. impact) and time. It’s important to avoid lagging indicators like revenue which is a by-product of the value you deliver. Focus on measures that provide clarity on your progress and connect the team efforts to the value of your product over a set period of time.
With these three components in mind, a well-crafted product vision statement might look something like this:
With a well-defined and communicated product vision you can confidently affirm the following:
- Yes, we have a clearly articulated, overarching goal we want to achieve.
- Yes, the vision aligns with our company’s purpose, core values, and direction.
- Yes, the near-term customer experience and business objectives move us toward
our product vision.
- Yes, everyone in our organization has the same understanding of what the product vision means and understands why it matters to the success of the company.
- Yes, everyone in our organization has an understanding of how their role contributes to achieving the product vision.
This approach eliminates aspirational and generic product vision statements. It clearly establishes the destination, the impact, and how progress will be measured, It delineates the intended timeline to get there. You will empower people to ask better questions, prioritize more effectively, and make better decisions.
Crafting a great product vision statement isn’t easy. It requires the right combination of vision, strategy, and alignment to ensure that your organization can realize the vision you have set forth. A vision is only as good as its articulation, and there are many ways in which it can be expressed.
The most important thing to remember when crafting a vision statement is that it is a living document that can evolve over time as new information becomes available. The goal isn’t to get it nailed down once and for all. It is to establish a vision that is compelling enough to inspire employees to work toward a goal that will bring significant value and impact to their careers, the customer experience, and the business.
The best vision statement is one that inspires people to get out of their comfort zone and do the difficult work necessary to make your vision come to life. It makes them feel excited, optimistic, and confident that they are contributing to something greater than themselves.