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The Importance of Vision

I have spent a lot of time working with ScrumMasters and teams doing root cause analysis of their problems, and very often one of the main root causes of a number of issues is a lack of a vision of where the product or team is going. Unfortunately vision is a much abused term in business today, and most attempts to create one involve glazed looks from people who have attended one to many corporate seminars that didn’t lead anywhere.

So I spent some time brainstorming with my team exactly why we think a vision is necessary. We came up with 3 reasons that we think teams need vision:

  • To unify, because we gain momentum if we all pull in the same direction.
  • To inspire, because we enjoy work more if we understand how we are contributing.
  • To empower, because we make better decisions and take responsibility if we can visualise the outcome.

I recently had a non software related vision. I even shared it with a team member (my husband). Our vision was to have a study/home office that we both wanted to spend time in.

We started with a small damp room at the back of our house, which although it was technically our study we never used. There was a damp problem, which meant water was slowly seeping through the floor, which meant the carpet went mouldy, which meant we ripped out the carpet and exposed the concrete floor, which meant the room was cold and ugly, which meant we never used it, which meant it became a general dumping group for stuff… you get the picture? If not here it is:

Before...

We both do a fair amount of work at home and we decided we didn’t like this anymore. We talked about what we really wanted. We didn’t call it a vision, but we shared what was important to us and what we wanted. It turns out that it took 6 months to turn the above room into our vision. The floor was worse than we thought and we had to re-pour the floor slab and leave it for months to dry, plus we struggled to find a carpenter willing to make a 3m floating desk. But eventually, guided by our vision, we ended up with a beautiful room, which yes in fact I am typing this blog post in 🙂

After...

So how did a vision help? I know it seems like a trivial example, but it helped me when hassling with contractors and living with monitors in my dining room to know there was a purpose to this all, and that I would know when I achieved this. Sharing the vision helped too, because it meant my husband could contact the carpenter and make all the arrangements without me, because he knew what we were both looking for. When faced with the choice about whether to revert to a simpler design to satisfy the carpenter, we just had to go back to our vision. We knew we wanted a clean minimal look if we were going to enjoy it, and we didn’t want space to be limited. So we avoided the drawer unit, or supporting pole in the middle of the desk.

50% done... Needed some vision about now

Think about all the trials and tribulations you go through on your product. Do you think it would help every now and again to step back from all the hassles and fantasize about what it could be one day? When being pushed into a feature you don’t think is a good idea, do you think it might be handy to have a vision to remind you what you are actually aiming for? And when the Product Owner is on leave, wouldn’t it be great if someone else could make the priority calls in line with a vision, which turn out to be the right ones?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, I think you could benefit from a vision. Let me know how it goes.

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2 Comments Post a comment
  1. I like the idea of a vision, I think you are saying it should be the vision of not only the dev team but the whole business. That matches my experiences. I love your home office example!

    July 19, 2010
    • Yes the vision should be for the whole business. After all we build software as a means to an end, not as an end in itself. Without the business there wouldn’t be a dev team. We often forget that.

      July 20, 2010

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