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Writing Your Product Vision

Updated: Jan 25, 2020

How to phrase your product vision based on VCR criteria and make sure it "pulls"

Octocopter drone made out of LEGO® bricks
A LEGO® drone built as part of a product vision workshop. It flew worse than you might think.

During a job interview, you surely at least once were confronted with the question: "Where do you see yourself in 5 years?" Recruiters are asking this question to find out whether the position fits into the long-term vision of your career.

What does your potential employer expect from a match? He expects you to work towards a goal that suits both you and the company, since the latter has created the position keeping its own goals in mind. We find ourselves in a quite similar situation when it comes to phrasing your product vision for an agile project.

Importance of Vision and Mission Statements

Your product vision is the guiding star of your team and everyone involved in your endeavour. This means that when you have a strong and compelling vision, everyone's work will be "pulled" into the direction that you have envisioned for the product.

Naturally, your team should head into the same direction as the other teams within your company. How can you ensure that this is the case? One approach is to make sure that your product vision is aligned with both your companies' mission and vision statements.

In case you are not sure how those two can be distinguished, here is a short characterisation:

  • Vision statement: Describes WHERE your company wants to be in the future. The vision statement is the guiding star of the whole company and keeps teams aligned to the same goal.

  • Mission statement: Describes WHAT your company is CURRENTLY doing FOR WHOM in order to attain its vision. The mission statement serves as an internal benchmark that allows us to measure our progress in achieving our companies' vision.

Aligning Your Product Vision

Now, keeping your team's product entangled with your company's vision and mission means that

  • your product vision should reflect your company's vision

  • each step toward achieving that vision should orient itself along the stakeholders, actions and values outlined in your company's mission statement.

What if your product and your team happens to be your entire company? Well, then I am quite confident that you already have a vision. Maybe you still need to phrase it, though.

VCR Criteria

Assume that you have aligned your own, potentially still implicit notion of a product vision with your company's vision for the future. The next step is now to communicate it to your team and everyone involved in your endeavour.

A compelling product vision that generates a "pull" effect needs to be VCR, which means

  • visionary, i.e. represent a significant departure from current conditions (e.g. user experience)

  • comprehensible, i.e. easy to absorb and comprehend

  • relatable, i.e. have an impact on your team members' and stakeholders' personal and/or professional life.

Sounds easy, right :)? Of course, the message that you deliver is only part of the equation. It is also very important how you deliver it.

Phrasing Your Product Vision

Product visions can be expressed in both words and images, but in both cases you need to make sure that your vision is easy to comprehend.

When using words, make sure that your vision is no longer than 2 sentences or roughly 30 words. This equates to roughly 8 seconds of reading time, which is the average attention span for an adult human according to a study by Microsoft.

Following the same argument, make sure that when using a graphic form to represent your product vision, your image can be fully understood within at most 8 seconds.

Storytelling and Frequent Repetition is Key

In any case, make sure that you state your product vision as part of a larger narrative that explains how you came to your vision, how working towards that vision will positively affect your team and your stakeholders and how achieving it will benefit everyone in the future. A storytelling approach and frequent repetition is key to pulling everyone towards your vision.

How Do You Become Entangled?

By reflecting your company's vision and mission statement when phrasing your product vision, you already made a first step to connecting your team's vision with your company's. Phrasing a VCR product vision that "pulls" your team is the next step, through which you translate your vision into a momentum that drives it implementation.

Care to Know More?

The above image of a drone made out of LEGO® bricks was taken during a workshop about agile principles. In the workshop, we experimented with different drone designs based on a single product vision. As you can imagine, the results turned out to be quite different :). You can order the drones online from Flybrix.

Would you also like to know more about this post's topic? If so, then please post your questions in the comments below and I will be answering them. If the subject of your question is a hot topic, then I will dedicate a post to it in the future.

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