Product Managers need to define, own, and communicate the dream they have for their product(s). The process they go through in developing the dream, can be referred to as Visioning. Earlier this week, Dr. Jim Anderson discussed the process in, Why Product Managers Need To Learn How To Do Visioning.
The question was then asked, how often should you go through the process? In discussions that followed, it was interesting to see the range of responses. Some suggested quarterly, others more frequently.
Visioning, defining the dream, for me is a function that varies by product, by industry. Moving at different rates, some demand change more quickly than others.
A well-described vision defines a clear focus. As I discuss in Picked Your Fencepost Yet?, If you’re in the middle of a field and want to get out, you need to pick a point on the fence, any point, and keep heading toward it. Getting out of the field is your vision, your dream. Working in the software industry, I have found formal visioning works best as an annual process.
Changing industry or market conditions are key factors suggesting more frequent visioning exercises. However, Organizational size often acts as a throttle, retarding your rate of change. Changing product vision too significantly, too often, creates havoc and/or disengagement in larger organizations.
Imagine an organization with 2,500 sales people globally, along with tens of thousands of partners (e.g. dealers, distributors…). It takes a while to communicate the message; to get everyone to simply understand the vision; to feel good about it; and, then be motivated to support it. Change your product’s vision more than once a year and they’ll wonder if you’ve a clue what you’re doing. Worse, they’ll get frustrated, demotivated.
Of course, on the way to your chosen exit point, you’re going to find rocks to avoid, creeks to ford. How you choose to deal with these impediments are your strategies, your tactics. These, may end up being reviewed weekly (or however often). Strategy and tactics are never to be confused with your dream, your vision.
To go through the visioning process too often, suggests the original focus was not set out far enough. Remember, the vision is not to move forward 6′. The Vision is to exit the field—via the point you picked—way over ‘there.’ Discounting the obvious impact of a game changer (e.g. earthquake destroys the fence), the ‘general direction’ you want to head in, shouldn’t be changing all that often.
image credit: Jef Bettens