Many product managers don’t give enough time to share their vision with their team so everyone is onboard around the destination the product is taking. This lack of communication around the product vision generates a number of problems. As we will see in this article, these problems have a simple solution. Simple, but not easy. You just need to put more time in communicating your vision and making sure you get what other members of the team have to have a sayomg about that vision.
The most simple definition of shared vision is that all members of a team can visualize the same desired result. It’s able to make sure that everybody sees a same future and that future is the same for each and every member of the team.
There is a distinction between vision and dream. For a vision to become real we take actions. In dreams there is no action. A dream is an idea that we have in our head, but we are not taking action to bring that dream to reality.
A shared vision is being able to make all team members see the desired future and also having the team aligned in the actions to be taken so all as a team can reach the desired goal.
A surprising study from Harvard Business Review stated that only 3% of leaders in a study took time to visualise and communicate their vision with their team on a regular and conscious way.
Not only having a shared vision asures the team will be aligned. You also need to take into account the aspirations of each member of the team. You need to be sure that people in the team are also motivated and inspired by the goal, and open to put their best efforts and skills to make the project move forward.
And this is why it’s counterintuitive to think that in order to have a shared vision you need to deeply connect in the present moment with the desires, emotions and skills of each member of the team.
The concept of shared vision is talked about in leadership courses. Also in the product management world, where this vision is sometimes called “Roadmap”. The problem with this shared vision is that in many cases it just stays as a concept, not a reality for the team. Its slogans and nice words that are stuck on the wall, but its not translated to aligned and coordinated actions that move the team forward on their goals.
For a vision to be really shared the most important ingredient to take into account is this one: Conversations.
Having deep and authentic conversations about the purpose and goal of the vision on an ongoing basis with all members of the team will make the vision become shared.
As said before, its easy but not simple.
One suggestion to get the ball rolling is to start a conversation by saying “this is my vision. What do YOU think?”
For a shared vision that is authentically shared you need to make sure you create the space for the team members to express freely their ideas and opinions. You need to be open to criticism and possible modifications of your vision based on feedback.
And for this type of conversation to emerge you must be vulnerable and open with your team. The vision might change, evolve and mature inside those conversion and that is actually good and healthy for the vision to be really shared by all members of the team.
As Margaret Heffernan explains in her brilliant TED talk, you need to be open to be in disagreement and discuss openly around your personal points of view so you can get to a better understanding of the other’s point of view, and between all create a more powerful and strong vision.
There might be other priorities in your day to day, but you should really reconsider leaving time to share your vision and have conversations around this topic.
The result of this exercise will mean you will have a shared vision. And when you have a true shared vision internal politics almost disappear, and relationships between members of the team transform. It’s not just about individuals going to work and going home. It’s about professionals working to make something they all share become a reality in the world, and that is extremely powerful.
The concept of shared vision is a beautiful one, but I don’t see how to make it a reality in my team.
I totally understand, and here is an icebreaker exercise to start conversations going. Get all your team together and ask them where each of them sees their product in one and three years. The answer must be written in paper and in silence, and do give people a good chunk of time to answer the question.
Once they finish make sure people read literally what they wrote on the paper. This will show you a clearly how aligned or misaligned the vision of the team is.
Have each member of the team share why they wrote their vision.
How do I make my team follow my vision?
The challenge in this question is the word “my”. If you have not been sharing your vision with the team it will feel very much “my”.
Start opening up with your team and sharing your vision.
Let people give their honest and open opinion and be open to criticism and change. If what people suggest makes sense, integrate it into the vision, let people know this, and thank them for their feedback.
You will know you are on the right track when you stop saying “my vision” and find yourself saying “our vision”.
What is your recommended time frame to review a shared vision?
With ever changing markets, having a 5 year vision seems unrealistic. Most common visions are built on 1 year timeframes.
A good support is the OKR model, and this is used on a quarterly basis. OKR stands for Objective and Key Results, and it enables teams to put what they are aiming for and what are the metrics that will be seen as successful if the objective is reached.
For Product Managers another great tool is to build a Roadmap. The high level roadmap will enable you to communicate your vision and the direction of your product.
The Roadmap is sometimes confused with development features. When correctly presented, the Roadmap is a great tool to open conversations around the vision of the product, so do use it to align the vision of your team.