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The team must understand the product vision

 

Team must understand the product vision

What is it you are building?

What are you building as a team? Who are you building it for? What need will it satisfy or what problem will it solve? Where is that solution moving in the future? In order to be a productive team, you must have a deep understanding of these concerns.

There is a pretty common belief that a good team operates as follows. There is a problem or a need that comes from the customer, and then some other role, a product manager or a product owner or somebody else, translates that need into requirements. Those requirements are then supplied to the team and the team does their best at implementing them and delivers the results back to the customer, thus closing the loop.

The reality, however, is very different.

The ultimate guide for team decisions

Despite the requirements provided—in whatever the form—the team makes hundreds of micro-decisions on a daily basis. These decisions influence the implementation approach, technology usage, and more. Ultimately, these decisions add up and influence the value of the product. For instance, a software developer on the team may decide to provide a rough implementation of a specific portion of user functionality. It’s the fastest possible way. But what she doesn’t know is that both her and her teammates will have to come back to this exact part of code to extend it to accommodate for plenty of new user functions in the future. And because of the rough-and-ready approach they’ve taken, they will struggle a lot extending and maintaining it. But similarly, a developer may have decided to provide a fairly extensible implementation, spending quite a bit of time on it, having no idea that there’s no intent to advance this functionality in the future and so… all the time is wasted.

What every team needs in order to be truly productive, is a vision for the product. And that will guide them through all those decisions that they have to make. If you are a team that doesn’t have a clear vision, it’s time to change this. Just the backlog is not enough. Sometimes you have to make extra effort to acquire that vision.

How to acquire your product vision

Start by determining who has the vision and could share it with you. Sometimes it’s the person who directly brings work to the team, a product owner or a product manager or maybe some other role. But sometimes, you need to go a level or two up. Start with the immediate person who your work items originate from and see if they can sufficiently address your questions. If yes – great, if not – ask them to help you engage with those who can. Here are a few questions that you may use to seed a productive conversation about the product vision:

  • Who is this product for?
  • Why do they need it?
  • How exactly is our current work solving that need?
  • What work is more important, and which is less important, and why?
  • Where is this solution headed in the future?

It would be useful to establish regular sessions where you as a team and the stakeholders who own the vision could gain this important alignment. Maybe it’s going to be your monthly or quarterly meeting. Maybe you need a session not just for you but also for other teams that collaborate with you on this product. That might be even better as the teams would have a chance to determine what are the implications of the vision to the cross-team interaction.

Taking action

Thanks for watching. If you as a team feel that you are missing some important bits of the bigger picture of your product, it’s time to act. Pick one concrete step in advancing your understanding of the vision. Use what we’ve discussed in the artcle/video to determine what exactly is it that you need to do.

Alex Yakyma

Alex Yakyma is the author of “Pursuing Enterprise Outcomes” and “The Rollout”. As a consultant, Alex is helping enterprises succeed with complex challenges. Throughout his career, he operated in multi-cultural, highly distributed environments. Alex has trained a large number of change agents and leaders whose key role is to help their organizations achieve higher effectiveness at pursuing business outcomes.

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