Building a Compelling Product Vision

By Thilina Fonseka

Tuesday, June 11, 2024

10X PO Blog/Building a Compelling Product Vision
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Welcome back to our journey towards becoming a top 1% Product Owner!

In Introduction to product ownership post, we covered the fundamentals of product ownership and the essential skills you need to succeed.

In this post, I'm diving into one of the most critical aspects of your role: building a compelling product vision.

A clear and inspiring vision not only guides your team but also aligns stakeholders and ensures everyone is working towards the same goals.

The Power of a Strong Product Vision

Imagine setting out on a long journey without a destination in mind.

It would be chaotic, frustrating, and likely unproductive.

The same goes for product development. A strong product vision acts as your north star, guiding every decision and keeping the team focused on what truly matters.

It provides clarity, motivates the team, and helps prioritize features and tasks that align with the overall goal.

Crafting Your Product Vision: A Personal Story

When I first took on the role of a product owner, I quickly realized that without a clear vision, our team was like a ship without a compass.

We were busy, but our efforts were scattered, and we struggled to make meaningful progress.

It wasn’t until we sat down and crafted a compelling vision for our product that things began to change.

​I remember gathering the team in a room, armed with sticky notes, markers, and a whiteboard.

We spent hours discussing, debating, and refining our ideas until we distilled them into a single, powerful vision statement.

That vision became the foundation of our work, guiding us through challenges and helping us make tough decisions.

Step-by-Step Guide to Creating a Product Vision

Creating a compelling product vision is crucial for guiding your team toward success.

​Let’s walk through this process together, integrating my own experiences, learnings and insights from some of the best minds in the field.

Step 1: Understand the Market and Identify Opportunities

First, you need to thoroughly understand your market.
This means identifying different customer segments and their needs.

Geoffrey Moore's "Crossing the Chasm" is a great resource to help you understand how to transition from early adopters to the mainstream market.

Additionally, "Blue Ocean Strategy" by W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne guides you in finding untapped market spaces where competition is minimal.

​Apple, for example, masterfully executed this with the launch of the iPhone.

They initially targeted early adopters who valued innovation and were willing to pay a premium.

Over time, they expanded to the mainstream market by continuously improving their product and addressing broader consumer needs, creating a blue ocean with minimal competition.

Action Steps

  • Conduct market research and customer interviews.
  • Use Moore’s technology adoption lifecycle to map out your customer segments.
  • Apply the Blue Ocean Strategy to identify areas with minimal competition.

Step 2: Define Your Vision

Next, let’s articulate a clear and inspiring vision for your product.

Marty Cagan's "Inspired: How To Create Products Customers Love" emphasizes that your product vision should be customer-focused, addressing specific problems and needs.

Meanwhile, Radhika Dutt’s "Radical Product Thinking" stresses that your vision should drive meaningful change, not just build features.

Tesla’s vision to "accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy" perfectly encapsulates this approach.

It is customer-focused, addressing a significant global problem, and drives the company’s strategic decisions and product developments.

Action Steps

  • Write a vision statement that clearly defines the problem your product solves.
  • Ensure your vision is ambitious yet achievable.
  • Align your vision with the broader mission and values of your company.

Step 3: Incorporate Core Ideology

Jim Collins, in his book "Built to Last," emphasizes the importance of having a core ideology—a combination of core values and a core purpose.

These elements are essential for creating a vision that stands the test of time.

For instance, Google’s core values include a commitment to user focus and innovation.

Their core purpose, "to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful," reflects these values and drives their product strategies.

Action Steps

  • Identify the deeply ingrained principles that guide your actions and decisions.
  • Determine the fundamental reason for your product’s existence – your "Why."

Step 4: Incorporate the Golden Circle

Simon Sinek’s "Start with Why" highlights the importance of understanding the deeper purpose behind your product.

Use Sinek’s Golden Circle to articulate why your product exists, how it will fulfill its purpose, and what it will deliver.

Airbnb is a great example.

Their "Why" is to create a world where anyone can belong anywhere.

Their "How" involves connecting hosts with travelers looking for unique experiences. The "What" is their platform that facilitates these connections.

Action Steps

  • Start with why your product exists. What is its purpose? What problem does it solve? Why should anyone care?
  • Define how your product will achieve its purpose. What processes and approaches will you use?
  • Outline what your product will deliver. What features and functionalities will it include.

Step 5: Envision the Future with BHAGs

Collins also introduces the concept of Big Hairy Audacious Goals (BHAGs)—bold, clear, and compelling goals that serve as a focal point for effort.

These goals should be ambitious and aligned with your core values and purpose.

Microsoft’s BHAG in the early 90s was "a computer on every desk and in every home."

This ambitious goal guided their strategy and drove innovation across the company.

Action Steps

  • Set Big Hairy Audacious Goals that are ambitious and aligned with your core values and purpose.
  • Ensure these goals push your team to achieve greatness.

Step 6: Align Vision with Objectives and Key Results (OKRs)

Translate your vision into actionable and measurable goals using the OKR framework.

John Doerr’s "Measure What Matters" provides a comprehensive guide to setting and tracking OKRs.

Intel successfully used OKRs to drive their strategic goals, improving focus, alignment, and measurable outcomes across the organization.

Action Steps

  • Set clear objectives that align with your product vision.
  • Define key results that are specific, measurable, and time-bound.
  • Regularly review and adjust your OKRs to stay on track.

Step 7: Focus on Delivering Real Value

Melissa Perri's "Escaping the Build Trap" emphasizes the need to move beyond feature delivery to creating products that solve real problems.

​Slack is a great example in this case. They continually focuses on solving real problems related to team communication and collaboration, leading to high user satisfaction and adoption.

Action Steps

  • Regularly revisit and reassess your product vision to ensure it aligns with customer needs.
  • Focus on outcomes rather than outputs.
  • Engage with customers to understand their evolving needs and challenges.

Step 8: Communicate and Evangelize Your Vision

Finally, ensure your team and stakeholders are aligned with your product vision through effective communication.

Marty Cagan, in "Inspired: How To Create Products Customers Love," highlights the importance of evangelizing your vision to inspire and motivate your team.

Elon Musk, for instance, effectively communicates SpaceX’s vision of making life multiplanetary, inspiring both his team and the public.

Action Steps

  • Regularly communicate your vision through presentations, documents, and informal discussions.
  • Use storytelling to make your vision compelling and relatable.
  • Encourage feedback and buy-in from all levels of the organization.

Example of a Product Vision Statement

Here’s an example to illustrate what a strong product vision statement might look like:

“To revolutionize personal finance management by creating an intuitive and powerful app that empowers users to take control of their finances, save more, and achieve their financial goals. Our BHAG is to help 10 million users achieve financial independence within the next decade.”

This vision is clear, inspiring, and provides a sense of direction for the team, while the BHAG gives a bold and ambitious target to strive for.

Bringing Your Vision to Life

Creating a vision is just the beginning. Here’s how to ensure your vision stays alive and guides your product development:

  • Regularly Revisit and Refine: As your product evolves, revisit your vision to ensure it remains relevant and aligned with your goals.
  • Embed It in Your Culture: Make your vision a part of your team’s culture. Refer to it in meetings, use it to guide decisions, and celebrate progress towards it.
  • Use It as a North Star: Whenever faced with tough decisions or conflicting priorities, refer back to your vision. It will help you stay on course.

Key Action Items to Focus on

To help you build a compelling product vision, here are the key action items to focus on:

  • Research Your MarketConduct market research and customer interviews. Use frameworks like the technology adoption lifecycle to map out customer segments. Identify untapped market spaces with minimal competition using strategies like Blue Ocean Strategy.
  • Draft a Vision StatementClearly define the problem your product solves. Ensure your vision is ambitious yet achievable. Align your vision with the broader mission and values of your company.
  • Incorporate Core IdeologyIdentify your core values that guide actions and decisions. Determine the core purpose of your product—your "Why."
  • Apply the Golden CircleArticulate why your product exists (purpose). Define how your product will achieve its purpose (processes and approaches). Outline what your product will deliver (features and functionalities).
  • Set Big Hairy Audacious Goals (BHAGs)Create ambitious goals aligned with your core values and purpose. Ensure these goals push your team to achieve greatness.
  • Align Vision with OKRsSet clear objectives that align with your product vision. Define specific, measurable, and time-bound key results. Regularly review and adjust your OKRs.
  • Focus on Delivering Real ValueRevisit and reassess your product vision regularly to ensure alignment with customer needs. Focus on outcomes rather than outputs. Engage with customers to understand their evolving needs and challenges.
  • Communicate and Evangelize Your VisionRegularly communicate your vision through various channels. Use storytelling to make your vision compelling and relatable. Encourage feedback and buy-in from all levels of the organization.

By following these action items, you'll be well on your way to crafting a robust and compelling product vision that guides your team and aligns stakeholders, ensuring the success of your product.

Conclusion

A compelling product vision is the foundation of successful product ownership.

It guides your team, aligns stakeholders, and keeps you focused on delivering value.
By taking the time to craft and communicate a strong vision, you set the stage for your product’s success.

Stay tuned for our next post, where we’ll dive into creating and managing a product roadmap. Together, let’s continue this exciting journey to becoming top 1% product owners!

Thank you for reading till the end. If you have any questions or feedback on how I can improve this post or the content in general, please do not hesitate to contact me here