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Last updated on 11/28/19

Discover the First Element of Effective Roadmaps: Product Vision Statements

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In this lesson, we will look at a key prerequisite for an effective roadmap - having an effective vision statement.

Look at the following types of vision and mission statements, how they are different from each other, and how each provides value to the organization:

  1. Company Vision Statement

  2. Company Mission Statement

  3. Product Vision Statement

Most successful companies have a clear vision that their employees understand and buy into. A vision can be thought of as a picture of the future that the company would like to create. For example, the vision of LinkedIn is:

To create economic opportunity for every member of the global workforce.

The company vision statement of Caterpillar (manufacturers of construction equipment) is:

Our vision is a world in which all people’s basic needs — such as shelter, clean water, sanitation, food, and reliable power — are fulfilled in an environmentally sustainable way and a company that improves the quality of the environment and the communities where we live and work.

Can you see how both of those paint a picture of a future world they would like to help create?

It is vital for a company to have a compelling vision because it will:

  1. Help employees to understand the general direction the company wants to go in and therefore simplify hundreds or thousands of the daily decisions that these employees must make. 

  2. Motivate employees to move the company in the right direction.

  3. Coordinate the activities of all employees - because they should all be moving in the same direction.

Characteristics of an effective vision statement

In the book Leading Change, author and Harvard professor John Kotter outlines the six characteristics of an effective vision:

  1. Imaginable - people can visualize what the future will look like

  2. Desirable - employees find the vision appealing

  3. Feasible - the goals set are realistic

  4. Focused - the vision is clear enough to help guide decision-making

  5. Flexible - the vision is general enough to allow individual initiative

  6. Communicable - the vision can be easily explained within five minutes

A vision statement explains where you want to be in the future.

A mission statement explains how you will get there.

The Walmart example

Walmart's vision statement is:

To become the worldwide leader in retailing

This is a compelling vision in the sense that it is ambitious and inspirational. However, it doesn't tell you much about how Walmart is going to be the world leader in retail. When you look at its mission statement, you see a better idea of how exactly the company intends to achieve this goal of global retail domination:

To help people save money so they can live better

This mission statement tells you that Walmart intends to help people save money. Walmart has a low-cost strategy and it wants to enable customers to buy the products they need and save as much money as possible. When discussing a new company initiative, you can bet that the first question asked in Walmart meetings is "does this help our customers to save money and to live better lives." If the answer is "no," this initiative should not be pursued.

Considerations of a mission statement

A mission statement explains how an organization will make their company vision come true. To that end, the mission statement typically explains:

  1. What do we do today?

  2. For whom do we do it?

  3. What is the benefit?

You can see that Walmart is providing low-cost products for customers who care about savings and the benefit is that they can live better.

Many companies create more than one product. For example, Google has many products such as Gmail, Google Search, Google Drive, Google Maps, Chrome browser, Adwords, and many many more. Google probably has around 20,000 developers which means that they have hundreds if not thousands of tech teams. Each team needs to have a vision for its particular product.

The Google example

Google's company-wide vision statement is:

to provide access to the world’s information in one click

Google's company-wide mission statement is:

to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful

However, the product vision statement for the Google Maps product might be something like

to organize and make accessible an experience that highlights what matters most to each user who wants to find geographical information and make journeys with maximum ease

Structure of the product vision statement

The product vision statement is therefore a statement that exists for each product/tech team in the organization. The sum of these product visions across the entire product portfolio of the organization should result in the achievement of the company-wide vision and be consistent with the company-wide mission of how to get there.

A company with three products would have three product vision statements
A company with three products would have three product vision statements

Format of the product vision statement

Author Geoffrey Moore offers a useful format in his seminal book Crossing the Chasm. It can be used by marketers to create a positioning statement or by product managers to create an effective product vision statement:

For (target customer)

who (has this need or opportunity),

our (product name)

is a (product category)

that (offers the following benefit)

unlike (competition)

we (state unique benefit that product delivers)

By filling in the part in parentheses above for your particular company and audience, you can arrive at your product vision statement.

Blackberry Product Vision Example

For business e-mail users

who want to better manage the increasing number of messages they receive when out of the office

our product BlackBerry

is a mobile e-mail solution that provides a real-time link to their desktop e-mail for sending, reading, and responding to important messages.

Unlike other mobile e-mail solutions,

BlackBerry is wearable, secure, and always connected.

Summary

  • Successful companies tend to have a clear vision (a desired image of the future) and a clear mission statement (how they can take certain actions today that results in the vision becoming a reality in the future).

  • Since a company can have many products, each product or team will also have a product vision statement that illustrates how this product/team makes a contribution to the company-wide vision.

  • The product vision statement is a pre-requisite to creating a product roadmap for the product/tech team.

Additional Resources

In the next chapter, we will examine how the use of broad timeframes can help optimize your roadmap for learning.

Example of certificate of achievement
Example of certificate of achievement