Without a vision, you are strategically lost. Focusing our developers’ mindset; ideas, discussions and decisions by having a true north directs all our energy towards the same future state. I say state because a vision should describe a new world changed by our efforts to reach the vision.
Many a boring vision
I have read many boring strategic visions and in my opinion if a vision doesn’t engage people it is no vision, just a blob of corporate Mumbo Jumbo. For a vision to become your organization’s highway for company culture and innovative breakthrough ideas it needs to be compelling. People must be able to connect emotionally, buying into the vision psychologically, feeling an eagerness to join the teams to fulfill the vision and contribute to a better world.
So what’s our vision?
At Stratsys we have a brand vision, which maybe is a more of a mission statement IMHO, that describes our ambition:
Stratsys simplifies work life in the cloud.
- Stratsys should be a globally growth company by simplify planning, doing and reviewing in working life through smart products in the cloud.
The definition stated above can work as a focal point but it does not inspire me enough. When I started at Stratsys I immediately saw that what we are doing is helping organizations and companies to make better outcomes with less resources. It became clear that Stratsys has an uncut diamond vision-wise.
The art of making a shared vision
So I decided that we at the development department should make a platform vision that is a subset and a clarified version of the corporate one, based on one important insight:
"Customers will never love a company until the employees love it first." - Simon Sinek.
In my opinion, a vision becomes immediately shared and internally absorbed if it is made by the people whom in the end should use it. Sure, an external brand firm can come up with a good vision but it is not certain that it will be carried by the actual doers. Since our development department consists of only 30 people only 2 workshops were necessary to get all of us on the same playing field.
Preparing workshops – the need for tools
I wanted our developers to break free from daily business and enter the abstract task to think 5-10 years ahead. It is not easy if you haven’t done it before and even if you have it is still a challenge.
I googled a while and found a nice vision guide that aligned with my previous experiences of making visions and that also fitted in what I wanted to accomplish. I also wanted to use the BHAG-concept to wake up the imagination. I framed the steps with Simon Sineks Golden circle model Start with the Why.
We had a 1-hour session where I went through all of the above. Everyone sat by themselves for 15 minutes trying to answer the guide’s questions. After that we talked a little about some of the difficulties and I coached them a bit to stay fluffy (it is so easy to fall back to epics or features). After that the teams gathered for 15 minutes and each team member presented their notes. They talked and improved their draft. Finally, we all met again and some of us presented what we had come up with so far. I gathered all notes and drafts and told them that I would summarize them all into one document.
Reading through these papers you will see highs and lows but everyone has something useful and contributing. I rephrased some texts to encompass and adapt several similar ideas. The outcome was a draft of a big vision. I added it to a collaborative tool (dropbox paper) and invited us all to read and comment.
After some iterations the first version of our platform vision was defined, hurray. The only drawback was that it became too long. But hey, at least we have a vision that is compelling, clear, inspiring and most important; shared by us all. Anyhow below you can read our Platform Vision:
Dev Department 5 Year Platform Vision
Stratsys is the first-hand choice whenever you need to plan something that is worth to follow up
In everything we do, we believe in hassle free working processes.
We believe that organizations can generate greater impact on society by being more productive.
We believe in building products which make users say: “I don’t honestly remember how I got something done properly before I started using Stratsys.”
By being fully transparent in our PDR-process “Plan, Do and Review”, Stratsys as a company is true to itself. We show the world by our actions, and not just by our words, that we believe in what we do. Our solutions provide added value through generating best practice, cutting edge visualization of the PDR-process and by being the best of breeds.
By simplifying planning and cooperation in our users’ daily work, their experience of our solutions will be that it gives more than it takes.
We will achieve this through our PDR software platform, a toolbox where you can pick and choose between apps that are aimed to help you pursuing your strategies and goals.
We design our apps to help our customers to increase productivity by measuring against time saving, quality, transparency and engagement. We make them easy to use, quick started and at the same time adaptable to our customers specific needs when their organization grows over time. Our apps are useful for all persons in an organization.
We believe that Stratsys software profoundly will amplify your efforts at work, reaching impacts in society you didn’t think were possible.
One liner:” Whenever you need to Plan something that is worth Reviewing, Stratsys helps you Do it”.
It seems harder than it is to frame a vision. Use some inspiration in form of articles or methods that you believe in and you will succeed. The hardest part is to engage developers and make them understand how important this activity is and what it will bring in return. We have already after a few months felt a change in behavior, how we think about our platform and the decisions taken are not the same as prior our vision work. Hopefully we are at the right track but at least we are aligned as a department, we all share the same vision now. The next step is to distill it further and as a leader refer to it every day.