Many books and articles have been written over the years advocating the need for leaders to provide a vision or to be a visionary. While it’s easy to read and talk about vision it can be elusive for some to create and even harder to effectively communicate.
But in our Agile Leadership Engagement Model it all starts here. Over the long-term, senior leadership must provide the “north star” for people to align to. The vision will provide focus for the ambition of our teams and specifically, the product owners. Product owners will rarely lack ideas or suggestions for their product and the organizational vision will be a strong filter as they create their product vision and backlog.
If your organization struggles with prioritizing and budgeting every year there is a good chance you have a vision problem. Without a clear vision everyone wants to do everything and project lists and product backlogs grow without anyone knowing if they are offering meaningful value.
We know having a vision is crucial so for those in a position of senior leadership in an Agile organization, here are a few things to consider when working on your vision:
Make it compelling by answering “why?” I have referenced Simon Sinek’s book “Starting with Why” in the past and if you haven’t read it yet, I would highly recommend it as a precursor to creating your vision. The temptation will be to jump into tactics and operational goals but you must be able to effectively answer, “Why does the world need this business?” before going any further.
Welcome partnership. We are asking our teams to be collaborative and cross-functional so why not be an example of this at the senior leadership level as well. Vision created in isolation will be a harder to communicate and may lack the creativity other perspectives can bring.
Tap into the knowledge of your product teams as they have an intimate understanding of the needs of your customers. Listen to technical leaders and staff as they can deliver useful insights into the future of technological innovation. The last post in the series will cover how this partnership may evolve but for now, welcome others into the creation of your vision.
Prepare to support planning. As you will see in the next post in this series, planning to build out vision may need hard choices and tough decisions. Mid-level leaders and managers will be making many of these decisions and they will need your support.
Promote pull. Becoming an organization who “pulls” from a vision instead of having the vision “pushed” on them starts with the attitude at the senior level. Allow your agile teams to build their own product vision in alignment with the broader vision. Provide latitude for your product owners to “freestyle” on the specifics of their product and adapt based on the changing needs of your customers. As Jeff Bezos from Amazon.com says, “We are stubborn on vision. We are flexible on details.” Here is a great article providing insight into the importance of vision and the mindset at Amazon.
We are stubborn on vision. We are flexible on details. – Jeff Bezos
References and Sources of Inspiration:
Harvard Business Review (free subscription) Strategic Intent.