What's the process to develop a vision?
The high level process shared by vision and strategy development
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Everyone wants a compelling vision and strategy. And everyone wants a formula, or a recipe, to create one. Both topics are essential parts of the strategic context we create for our teams, and are a bit hard to pin down.
For example, with two clients that I'm supporting to redevelop their product vision and strategy, both have been seeking some kind of formula. What's the recipe? What's the process we follow? What comes first? What's last? And so on.
While there is no universal approach, both of these amorphous topics do have a repeatable high-level process with three phases:
Each stage has different inputs, outputs, and common mistakes.
The rest of this post will expand on these phases for developing a vision.
PHASE 1: PREP
One framework that is quite relevant here is Jobs To Be Done (JTBD). A key insight from JTBD is that jobs tend to be stable over time, and employ different solutions (products/services) over time to get the job done.
As it relates to vision, this means that the core jobs your customers have—before, during, and after your product's current point in their journey—are stable. Those jobs existed before your company, and will likely exist after your product.
It's this background research that enables you to see the white space, to see where this process—i.e. the customer journey/process that your product exists within—could be way better in the future. This is the stock at the base of the soup, into which we mix industry and technology trends to imagine drastically different future versions of the journey. We have to understand the now as a base to imagine the future.
• Inputs: customer research, industry trends, technology trends, aspirations
• Outputs: a sense of where the customer journey can be drastically improved in the future
• Mistake: skipping the prep and diving right into creation
PHASE 2: CREATE
This is the part everyone tries to jump right into (common mistake).
In creation a vision, this is where we are developing the core story of the future. Humans are wired for stories. But good stories don't just happen, they are crafted.
In terms of a vision, this is where we're imagining the future. My favorite way to do this with clients is to explore the future version of a customer journey or story map. Once we have the backbone and rough shape of the story, it's amazing to collaborate with a storyboard artist to flesh it out more.
• Inputs: the prep work you did in phase 1
• Outputs: a compelling story that is emotionally resonant to the receiver, and which provides both direction and inspiration
• Mistake: conflating story development with story transmission, i.e. blending phase 2 & phase 3 and dive right into developing the various assets to communicate the story, and skipping actual story development
PHASE 3: COMMUNICATE
This is the easy part—if you've done the work until now. This is where we package the story we've crafted into various formats and lengths to best suit different evangelism contexts.
You might have a slide deck, visual 1pager, video, vision type, etc. Remember: **these are all just repackaging the same story.**
• Inputs: the story from phase 2
• Outputs: various assets to evangelize/distribute/communicate the vision, e.g. vision statement, storyboards, videos, slide decks
• Mistake: trying to start here, i.e. trying to develop the story of the vision and the assets to distribute/communicate that vision at the same time